I wanted to tell you all this story of something that happened to me at the Welcome Home Tuesday. I waited until now because I was not sure I could tell it without tearing up. I am still not sure if I can do this but this is a story that makes Tuesday just that much better. Here goes.
I was taking photos at the mall and one of the bikers walked up to me and was talking to me. It was not someone I had ever seen before and so I was polite and just chatted. He informed me that he had been living here for a short time, 1 ½ years. Told me he had always been a biker and had just recently gotten involved with a local group. He stopped and looked around and softly said “This is a great thing for the community to do”. I agreed and he walked off. He was on my mind because there was just something. You know, you can tell.
Anyway, things moved on and the day moved on. Now we are downtown and I see him ride past and he waves. I smile and wave back. The Ceremony starts and photos got taken, Video got taken. Do not really see him again but I am a little busy. As I start to get ready to leave I check on Don and head back over to say Goodbye to some friends.
As I am looking for a friend I see my new buddy standing off by himself. I’m friendly so I want to say bye and give him a card so he can see the photos.
I walk over and he looks up and I see tears in his eyes. Being concerned I ask him if he is ok and this is what he says to me.
“ There was a time in life that this type of event would not happen. I have lived in a lot of places over the last 30 odd years and this is the first time I have seen this outpouring of love. You and all those who did this, did a wonderful thing.”
I said “We didn’t do anything more than should have been done for every military person who has come home”
He looked at me and said “When I came home I got spit on, yelled at, and had food thrown at me. On that day the soldier in me got back on that plane. That part of me could not live in a place that responded as the people here did. You have no idea what this means to a guy like me. Because of what you did the 22 year old soldier, that young kid who wanted nothing more than to come home, that kid from 30 odd years ago finally got to come home. He finally step off that plane to a community that loves him. Thank you for helping to get that guy, this guy, home. For the first time since the war, I don’t have to look over my shoulder. I can breathe… I am home.” By this time tears were rolling down his face as well as mine.
I did the only thing I could do. I wrapped my arms around him and said “Welcome home soldier and thank you for all that you did and for all that you do.”
Now I know this was long and drawn out but this is one of those stories I had to share with you. There are a lot of soldiers that came home for the first time yesterday and all of you were part of that. So from me Thank you. Thank you for your love and hard work and for bringing so many home.
Ruthie Porter is a long time friend of Carlsbad Radio and some of Don and Ruthie’s posts can be seen at http://desertphotos.net/home/.