Sunday, April 29, 2007

Welcome Home 24th Marine: 46 In, 46 Out

Update: Welcome Marines and Family Members!!!

We had another great experience welcoming home the 24th Marine Reserves, 12th Regiment from their 7 month deployment to Fallujah, Iraq.

Update: Video

It started at 5pm Friday, April 28th at the KCI Marriott where the Patriot Guard Riders assembled an estimated 200 bikes and 30 cars to escort the marines to their base at Richard Gabauer Air Force Base in Belton, Missouri. (Read the Patriot Guard Mission Report with pictures)

Official report says 185 bikes.

We then drove over to Lot G in the actual air port where we re-assembled and waited for the marines to land.

There were a few moments when the Kansas City Missouri police did not want the 200 bikes to participate in the escort. No full details about why exactly, but the marines insisted that we be allowed to participate. The marines landed a little late, but they came out to an overwhelming round of screams, roaring motorcycles and honking horns.

Our procession was several miles long with flying flags and honking horns. As we left the air port proper, people were lining the road with flags and signs. The highway travel was challenging. With such a long procession, other cars had to stop on the entrance ramps. The city was the toughest. It was well worth it as we pulled into Belton.

The first thing we saw was a giant sign over the overpass welcoming home the marines.

As we arrived into Belton, the road was lined with hundreds of flags [update] and THOUSANDS of family, friends, citizens of Belton and surrounding areas and members of support groups like Patriot Guard Riders.

When we arrived at Richard Gabauer, the first thing we noticed at the entrance was a pick up truck with the Soldiers' Angels banner telling everyone who arrived that Soldiers' Angels was there to support troops.

We also met up with Teri Louthain and Pat Louthain, Spc Louthain's mom and grandmother. The Louthains were instrumental supporting Soldiers' Angels in Kansas City at the Snake Saturday Parade (pictures and text report here). The Louthain's provided the truck to pull our float and t-shirts from their shop.

Hundreds more family members and support groups were on hand at the site to give the final "welcome home".

Deby Frerichs was on hand to hand out Soldiers' Angels Marine Coins and Rhonda Gray drove down with her husband and the Patriot Guard. Frank McGough from the Gen. Larry Oppenheimer Det. Marine Corp Leaque told us that the League "passed the hat" at their last meeting and provided $400 to bring in food, refreshments and some entertainment for the families and marines. The Kansas City area and Belton, MO Young Marines held flags, helped set up the welcome and gave a rousing salute to the returning vets.

Tamra Birchfield from the USO drove the USO RV supplying cookies, drinks and many "welcome home" pins and supplies. Tamara told KC Soldiers' Angels that Kansas City does not have its own USO, but is supported out of the St. Louis, Missouri area. She said that she was excited to meet other support groups in the area that could be on hand to welcome our men and women home. The USO is always looking to partner with these organizations where the USO is limited. That's why organizations like Soldiers' Angels is so important.

As we walked around the grounds, we met and shook hands with many marines, welcoming them home. Two marines were kind enough to give us interviews (video to follow). Sgt Foster said that he wasn't surprised by the welcome home, but it was exciting. Cpl Morris then took time away from his family to talk with us. When asked if the marines were excited to see all the support, he said, "Absolutely! Absolutely! It would be silly not to be excited. It's appreciated." Each of the marines returning from deployment were given a commemorative knife hand made by a metal working shop that one of the marines' brothers.

We ran into Maj. Mike Corrodo, commanding officer of the 24th Marine, 12th Regiment.

Maj. Corrodo was assigned to 24th Marine after they were deployed and did not go with them, but he spent a lot of time on the home front learning the names of his men, their families and where they all lived. He felt it was important to do everything he could on the home front. Maj. Corrodo said that the best thing about this deployment was that all of his men came home, "46 in, 46 out".

We later learned that Maj. Corrodo is a recording artist. He was recalled as an Individual Ready Reserve. Maj. Corrodo toured around the United States with many bands. His song, On My Watch, was featured at Soldiers' Angels.

Finally, it was the end of the day. All of the families and marines went home. The Young Marines took up the watch and cleaned up the parade grounds.

Soldiers' Angels thanks all of the support groups and citizens of the Kansas City and Belton, Missouri area for coming out to make this welcome home so fantastic for our marines. Most of all, we thank the marines and their great families for serving our country.

Semper Fi!

UPDATE: A special thanks from a family member of a Marine that arrived is up at the PGR:


To All Patriot Guard Riders and to all who made the Reunion of 1 / 24th Marines a success:

I can't say enough about all of you. You made this one heck of a day for the Marines and their families to remember - mine included. It was one impressive sight to see all those bikers escorting the bus back to the base and even more impressive from where I was at the front of the pack.

My Marine said that all of the guys were overwhelmed by the show of support that the Patriot Guard provided them.

This was definitely the heroes welcome that they deserved and that all veterans - past, present, and future - should receive - or should have received.
My heartfelt thanks to all.

Proud Pop of Corporal Will Hardy
1/24 Marines
and Patriot Guard Rider

Other Links:
Check out Techograpy: Welcome Home, Brother for more of the story and great pictures.
WDAF TV 4 Kansas City (video)
NBC Action News Top Video

KC Soldiers' Angels video to follow (update: it is up above)

Cross referenced at the Castle

- May no soldier go unloved