On my way home from an 18 month long deployment I was sitting on the plane, the same plane that was so crowded we had people sitting in each other laps and people where sitting in the aisle, and now that plane ride was far less crowded. It was a very very solemn flight home. To be honest, I don’t think anyone spoke the entire time. I took this time to reflect and remember each member of my second-family that wasn’t with me on the journey to our welcome home celebration. After a long flight, we were all exhausted, both physically and emotionally, we found ourselves in the humble town of Accord, New York and we NEVER expected the turn out that was there. The small town of roughly 600 people showed up to welcome us home, the streets where packed and it seemed so surreal, tranquil, and very humbling. I’ll never forget that day. While I was there, a CNN reporter stopped me to interview me, hesitantly I said I would oblige a few questions and that was it. The first question out of this pompous over-zealous reporter was, “Would you do it all again?” and I felt so incredibly insulted I blew a fuse. My buddies immediately stormed to my position, and grabbed me away from the his young woman. We continued on enjoying the small celebration, and then I was abruptly stopped. There was this special needs child in a full Army uniform and he walked up to me and said, “You’re my hero.” I immediately felt my heart jump into my throat and fell to my knees. Here I am, 5′ 10″ 200lbs, and an experienced combat veteran and this young 6 year old child brought me to my knees in a few seconds. A swarm of questions clouded my mind such questions as, “Why am I the hero?” “What makes mea hero?” such questions I knew would have to be reflected upon later, and then I immediately grabbed his small child, embraced him as if he was my brother, and whispered in his ear, “And you’re my hero.” At that exact moment I broke down in tears, I let it all out right there in front of all those people, and before I knew it, they all had embraced me, and I felt like I was a long lost brother. What an incredibly humbling experience. At the end of the day, I passed the same reporter, and I pulled her aside and told her, “Look, I’m sorry, I really am. You have no idea of the hardships we’ve endured and the good people we lost. You asked me ‘Would you do it again?’ I would do it again, in a heart beat, without thinking about it.” I don’t remember much about that day, but I remember becoming instantly humbled by those three words from that child, which is a memory I’ll cherish forever.
Here are a few photos I thought I would share with everyone, these are various photos taking by civilians/Army photographers of our deployment.