I know this is long overdue...
We arrived in Concord, New Hampshire around noon time on a cold day in early March. There was much fanfare. We had left Ft. Dix in New Jersey at 0300 (that's three o'clock in the morning to you civilians.) That's not early for us though. There is no such thing as early in the Army.
I was lucky enough to be able to ride with Stace from Ft. Dix to Concord.
Ft. Dix is only an hour from our house in Jersey City, and I was given special permission to ride with her in her car. (I won't mention the tickets Stace got for running a red light and speeding on her way to pick me up - so ignore anything you read in parenthesis). The rest of the company piled into three buses.
When we hit the border of New Hampshire, the New Hampshire State police picked up our escort. At first, they tried to force me and Stace (and Carl, who was also in a civilian vehicle because he also lives in New Jersey) out of the convoy, but eventually they realized who we were and that we belonged with the buses. The State Police are not required, ordered and even asked to escort the returning troops back home, they do it on thier own, on thier day off. We were told that half the force tried to get the day off on the day of our return, so they could be the ones to escort us back home. When I was finally allowed back into the convoy, It was a very touching moment.
Banners were hung all over the place on the highway. Every overpass had a banner. "Welcome home SPC. Moriarity","Welcome home Charlie Company","We love our Mountain boys","I love you daddy."
At the gates of the Armory, the local Concord police were waiting. They saluted us as we passed. Then the fire department with a huge American Flag hanging from one of thier ladder trucks, also saluted as we drove under thier flag. The families were waiting inside.
I dropped Stace at the main door, parked my car, and jumped onto one of the buses until it reached the door the returning troops were supposed to enter through. I was one of the first people into the hanger where the familes were waiting. Generals, Colonels, Politicians and reporters waited at the door, but there were only two people that I wanted to talk to. On the other side of all the hand shakers stood two soldiers in green. SPC McWilliams and SPC Davis. The last time I had seen Davis, he was lying in a pool of his own blood, his back and chest torn open by shrapnel, and his right arm hanging limply. He was hit in a rocket attack on the base in which six other soldiers were killed, and a dozen or so were wounded. Davis was unlucky enough to be out in the open when the rocket hit. The last thing he remembers from that day was saying "hello" to me as I passed him on the way into the PX. If I had paused longer, I would have been hit too. But here he was, standing tall in uniform. Very much alive and free from harm.
SPC McWilliams was hit with an IED (Improvised Explosive Device), during a series of attacks in late September early November. The shrapnel from the blast pierced the armor of the truck, destroyed his weapon, bypassed his vest, and tore into him. He was medivaced to safety, and then home. There he was in front of me, standing tall in uniform. I hugged them both and was ushered along.
There was a gauntlet of families and friends inside. At this point, all I could think of was Stace. I know I had just left here at the back door a couple minutes ago, but I got caught up in the hype of the moment. I walked through the crowd, and there she was.
Monday, July 18, 2005
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