Archive for Thursday, November 9, 2006

Standing ovation greets soldiers

Red, white and blue neighborhood a surprise to sergeant after Baghdad

November 9, 2006


Staff. Sgt. John McLean was still a few blocks away from his Lawrence home Thursday afternoon when he saw American flags, red, white and blue streamers and the "welcome home" signs.

"It was really incredible," McLean said. "It really shows how the neighbors support their own neighbor, plus what's going on over there."

After more than a year of patrolling the dangerous streets in the suburbs of Baghdad, McLean had finally returned to the safe environs of his old neighborhood on Riverside Drive in northern Lawrence.

McLean's day began at 12:30 a.m. at Fort McCoy, Wis., where he and more than 450 other members of the 1st Kansas National Guard's 2nd Battalion, 137th Infantry, boarded buses for the long drive to Topeka. They had spent the past week getting physicals, being debriefed and completing paperwork before heading home.

Shortly after 2 p.m., they marched into the Kansas Expocentre to a rousing standing ovation from an estimated crowd of 3,000 people.

McLean's wife, Raquel, was in that crowd, waiting to see her husband for the first time in about 14 months.

"It's been a roller coaster," Raquel McLean said, describing her emotions. "The waiting, anticipating and then waiting again."

She had plenty of company. More than an hour before the troops returned home, Lawrence resident George O'Brien Sr. leaned against his car in the Expocentre parking lot and waited to be reunited with his son, George O'Brien Jr.

"He wants to have three or four days by himself," O'Brien said of his son. "He wants to get out on his motorcycle. He bought a new Harley just before he left."

The elder O'Brien, a Navy veteran of the Vietnam War, summed up the past year in one word.

"Worry," he said. "That's about the best way to describe it."

Longtime coming

Throughout the parking lot, families from throughout Kansas arrived in vehicles bearing flags and signs that said "My Son is Home" and "Welcome Home Heroes."

Outside the Expocentre's main entrance, Larry Beam and his wife, Bev, of Topeka, eagerly awaited the return of their son, Jeff Beam, of Lawrence.

"It seems like it has been forever getting here," Bev Beam said of the reunion.

Larry Beam, an Army veteran of Vietnam, said he was happy to see such a large crowd show up for the welcoming.

"We didn't have anything like this when I returned home," he said.

The 2nd Battalion is made up of Company A based in Lawrence and other units based in Kansas City, Kan., and Wichita. Their duties in Iraq included operating the Joint Visitor's Bureau in Baghdad and providing security for many high-level visitors to Iraq. They also were responsible for patrols around Baghdad.

One soldier in the battalion, Company A's Spec. Jessie Davila, of Greensburg, was killed in February by a car bomb.

Welcome home

Also waiting to welcome the guardsmen were Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, Maj. Gen. Tod Bunting, the guard's adjutant general, and other state senior Guard commanders. Their speeches were short.

"I just want to say welcome home," Sebelius said to the troops and their commander, Lt. Col. James Trafton. She also commended the guardsmen for their handling of a "very dangerous" mission in Iraq.

Trafton said he was proud of his unit.

"As I look back over the past 15 months, I'm amazed at what they accomplished," he said, noting that the troops had seen their duties increase as they took over responsibilities of other battalions when they left and weren't replaced.

Trafton called on his soldiers to remain safe now that they were home.

"Just because you made it through combat in Iraq, you are not indestructible," he said.

Before dismissing the troops to their families, Bunting also commended them.

"No unit has ever served with more distinction than the 1st Kansas," he said.

Upon dismissal, families swarmed onto the Expocentre's floor searching for their loved ones.

Sgt. Matthew Davids, of Lawrence, held his little niece, Madeline Davids, while standing by his sister, Heather Davids, of Kansas City, Mo.

"I didn't think it would be anything like this," a smiling Matthew Davids said of the welcoming throng.

Heather Davids said she had no problem spotting her brother as he marched in.

"I think it's just awesome," she said. "I just got welled up with emotion. I couldn't wait to make contact with him."

A short distance away, Spec. E-4 Titus Stanley, of Kansas City, Kan., described the feeling of coming home as "heart-stopping."

"It was really emotional," said Stanley, a member of Lawrence's A Company. "You feel like a rock star coming in here. All the people are so supportive. I'm real happy to be back with my family."

Titus said he intended to give the Combat Infantry Badge he received in Iraq to his young nephew, Jessie Stanley.

"Jessie prayed for me every Sunday while I was over there. I feel like God kept me safe through his prayer," Titus Stanley said.

Also greeting Stanley was his mother, Billie Stanley, of Kansas City, Kan.

"He's a brave young man," she said of her son. "I'm just glad he's home safe and proud that he served his country."

Family dinner

In John McLean's Lawrence neighborhood, preparations began a few days earlier for his return. Neighbors Scott and Cammie Braden's children, Drew, 16, and Jamie, 11, began distributing fliers encouraging neighbors to put out flags or put up welcome signs as a way of saying "thanks" to McLean for his service.

"It was a community effort," Cammie Braden said.

By Thursday evening McLean, who as a civilian works as a respiratory therapist at University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City, Kan., and Raquel, their three children and other family and friends prepared to enjoy a steak dinner.

"It's been a long, hectic day," John McLean said.

Free breakfast

Hy-Vee stores in Lawrence will serve free breakfasts for military veterans Saturday morning in honor of Veterans Day. Breakfast buffets featuring pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, hashbrowns, fresh fruit, pastries, biscuits and gravy - and, of course, coffee - will be served from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. at both Hy-Vee stores in town, 3504 Clinton Parkway and 4000 W. Sixth St. The complimentary meals are available for all military personnel, including retirees, those on active duty or otherwise serving or having previously served in the National Guard or reserves. To receive the free food, just show a military ID to the cashier. "It's our way of saying thanks to those who serve our country," said Kevin Green, manager of store operations at Hy-Vee on Sixth Street. This is the fourth year of the appreciation program, Green said, and the first to feature buffets.


Sigmund 11 years, 6 months ago

Welcome home and thanks to everyone of the 2nd Battalion for your service to our country in Iraq.

Angela Heili 11 years, 6 months ago

God Bless you all!! You are definitely welcomed home, and we thank you for your service in Iraq.

ronwell_dobbs 11 years, 6 months ago

Here's hoping and praying that everyone stationed there comes home alive, well, and soon.

Dixie Jones 11 years, 6 months ago

welcome home and thank you for all you have done. god bless

jonas 11 years, 6 months ago

It's good that many seem to have learned the lessons of vietnam (at least, the ones that I read about) where that whatever you're personal thoughts about the war itself, the men fighting it still deserve our honor and respect.

Jay_Z 11 years, 6 months ago

Thank you for your service and welcome home everyone.

KSChick1 11 years, 6 months ago

this article brought a tear to my eye

so sorry to the Vietnam vets (including my own father) who were not welcomed like this when they came home

glad you're back, all of you, and so happy to have you home!!!

jonas 11 years, 6 months ago

Let's drop in to point out that the name-calling was started by a self-proclaimed right-wing supporter of the troops, and not by a (paraphrase) "godless, Bush and America-hating liberal peacenik."

Just for the record.

craigers 11 years, 6 months ago

Thanks to all soldiers and vets. God bless you for your service.

context 11 years, 6 months ago

Welcome home. I don't believe I know anyone from your unit, but you're all our soldiers, and we're very proud of you.

Enjoy sleeping in a bit today, riding that Harley, holding your kids, doing something unscheduled, and just walking along the street. You've paid some of the price for the America many of us sit back and take for granted.

Keep fighting for your country ... tell your stories. Most of us have little idea what it was like for you there. Be sure to share what war really costs, what people gave, and what you came away with. You're back home now, so you're entitled to talk and the rest of us ought to listen.

And, if you have a chance to really talk to the people with no idea -- you know, the ones who never served, who never had a son or daughter in service -- tell them about duty and make them understand the kinds of sacrifice we make in uniform. They probably won't get it, but if those folks (to whom service to country is such an abstract concept) feel a little a guilt about what they've never given ... so be it.

Happy Veterans Day!

jonas 11 years, 6 months ago

"And, if you have a chance to really talk to the people with no idea -- you know, the ones who never served, who never had a son or daughter in service -- tell them about duty and make them understand the kinds of sacrifice we make in uniform. They probably won't get it, but if those folks (to whom service to country is such an abstract concept) feel a little a guilt about what they've never given ... so be it."

You should go @#%# yourself, context. Just because we haven't served a term doesn't make us inferior. Perhaps some of us COULDN'T serve. But I don't suppose you really care about the shades of meaning when it's so much easier to paint everything in black and white, ne?

Steve Mechels 11 years, 6 months ago

Yo Jonas, lighten up. I don't think Context was trying to make anyone feel inferior; just saying share the experience with those who haven't been there.

OK, I read the message again and maybe I am wrong, but I don't think so. There are more ways to serve besides the military.

Steve Mechels 11 years, 6 months ago

Oh, and BTW before we get too far off the subject: Welcome back to 2/137 IN! Glad most of you made it back safe. Now lets keep the rest in our hearts and minds until they return safe. Hopefully soon; I don't see what we are going to do at this point to change the status quo in Iraq.

EXks 11 years, 6 months ago

Thank you for your service and courage Staff. Sgt. John McLean

Thank you to our men and women in uniform, those serving now and to those who served in the past.

jonas 11 years, 6 months ago

"anti-military, secular-progressive, anti-war, Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld hating posters, like Katara (HGA/Wendt), Bozo, Merrill and the whole lot of you guys can muster up a "Thank You", for allowing your freedom of speech."

I would have hoped I wouldn't have to analyze your own post for you, Right-Thinker, but to call what you posted up there as politically relevent terminology just shows your total inability to distinguish between the reality that you want to believe in and the reality that is. Whether or not the terms would apply to Boze, Merrill and HGA, once you included the term "and the whole lot of you guys" you passed beyond any claim of credibility into the arena of simple stereotyping and labeling, and there is not a single jot of difference, in my opinion, between that and name calling.

It's also a rather thin and pathetic attempt on your part to lump together anyone who may hold reasoned, thoughtful opinions on mismanagement of the war, and the role of the administration therein, as well as the problems associated with mixing politics and religion, into the same group as the admittedly existent group of people who do, in fact, hate religious expression and authority, in an attempt to discredit any arguments in opposition to the one you are claiming to represent. But we can discuss your many and varied straw-man fallacies another time, at your leisure.

jonas 11 years, 6 months ago

However, now that I am made to think about it, I think I should re-word my earlier post for better accuracy.

Let's drop in to point out that the first attempt to change this thread's discussion from a respectful salute to the troops into a flame war about political ideology through the use of labeling and stereotyping came from a self-proclaimed right-wing supporter of the troops, and not by a (paraphrase) "godless, Bush and America-hating liberal peacenik."

Just for the record.

Hey, you're right, that IS better!

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 6 months ago

Ok stop being childish it is nonsense you guys are grounded, nothing but nice for the rest of the day. Thankyou and welcome home, and enjoy all you can.

Kelly Anderson 11 years, 6 months ago

Welcome home!!!!! and thank you to all that serve in the present and have served in the past.

Thank you to my mother and father (Air Force and the reason they met and married) Thank you to my sister (Air Force) Thank you to my brother (Navy) Thank you to my brother-in-law (Army) Thank you to my nephew (active duty in Iraq-Army) Thank you to my 2 nieces (ROTC-Air Force at K-State) and thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, for my families safety and rights of freedom!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 6 months ago

It is amazing how a few people can turn a happy welcome home into a battle.

jonas 11 years, 6 months ago

Don't ask me to respond unless you're ready for it.

And if you think yours and reality check's posts were coeval in terms of hostility, labeling, and impracticality, then I can't think of anything that would actually reach you. I've made the point that I wanted to say, and I will now drop it.

. . . "harrassment?!" hahahahaha

mgroves33 11 years, 6 months ago

Regardless of the politics behind getting these troops to Iraq, I must say that I am humbled by what these men and women sacrificed over the last year of their lives. I can also say with great sincerity that Staff Sgt. McLean has more integrity than just about anyone I have encountered in my life. I'm glad you are home Sarge.

There appear to be a few readers with very passionate political opinions. Respect and integrity seem to be lacking. My suggestion would be to post your opinions after an opinion based article.

jonas 11 years, 6 months ago

I only hit hard where I percieve it to be warranted. Sorry if I've irritated innocent bystanders.

mgroves33 11 years, 6 months ago

I'm sure the gratification you get from the controversy warrants your words. Is it really worth it?

werekoala 11 years, 6 months ago

Welcome home, soldiers. I'm glad so many of you made it back.

Also, today is the Marine Corps' birthday. Buy a Marine a drink, if you meet one out tonight.

Tomorrow is Veteran's Day. Do something for vets. Donate some old clothes to the DAV.

If you've got the cash, why not donate to one of these charities as well:

Oh, and while I'm not sure this is the best thread for political arguments, right_thinker is being far more of a tool than reality check. Reality Check is advocating for better benefits for vets. Right_thinker is attacking everyone who doesn't agree with him as being part of some imaginary right-wing boogeyman.

jonas 11 years, 6 months ago

wouldn't that be left-wing boogeyman?

Does the marine corps do anything to celebrate their birthday?

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 6 months ago

yes jonas and it is very formal and for some not so much they look good in their dress blues.

werekoala 11 years, 6 months ago


Ask any Marine, they'll be able to tell you the birthday of the Corps. Most posts do something, depending on the numbers. Have a cake or reception or something.

Also, from what I understand, the Marines over there can usually get their hands on some actual booze for the birthday, unlike those poor Army boys who get 2 beers on Superbowl Sunday.

Oh, and "right-wing" as in it's the boogeyman of the right wing. The problem with demonizing your political enemies is that a) the pendulum swings, b) you start believing your own propaganda, and c) when those two things happen, your whole world can be shattered.


Did you or did you not type "anti-military, secular-progressive, anti-war, Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld hating posters" and then proceed to name names of folks you considered to be this way.

Look, the military needs to be honored. And while I've seen the posteres you named disagree with the Administration's conduct, religious social conservatism, and the conduct of the Iraq war, I've never seen them being "anti-military".

Way I see it, if someone is so far gone he can't honor the troops, I'm not mad. I pity the poor deluded idiot. The problem is, people like this make up less than 1% of Administration critics. You've just let Rush, et al, convince you that every single person who disagrees with the party line is one of that small percentage.

Chill out. Everyone in the thread has posted out of support for the troops. Looks like it's time to set the water down, buddy.

jonas 11 years, 6 months ago

Werekoala (which, by the way, would be a site to see, Eucalyptus Trees Beware!):

I can see the point, but I still think "left-wing boogeyman" paints a better picture. The boogeyman from the left-wing, ya'know.

How do they figure today is the corps birthday? Is it from the official naming of the corps, or did we simply not have a military unit of its type before that?

Maybe I should check wikipedia. . .

SpeedRacer 11 years, 6 months ago

Welcome home, troops! Happy Veterans' Day to all who have served and all who have sacrificed.

Daniel Kennamore 11 years, 6 months ago

The point of the holiday is not to talk about politics guys...take a moment to forget all of that stuff and appreciate the troops...i for one can't express my gratitude for them.

stagn 11 years, 6 months ago

Welcome Home 137th. May God bless you and your families for the sacrifices you have made for your country in the War on Terrorism.

Terry Jacobsen 11 years, 6 months ago

Check out the DVD The Fog of War and you'll see what the Secretary of Defense at the time thinks of that war now. Quite chilling.... Logrithmic

Oh my gosh!!! You have been given a great revelation!!! 20/20 HINDSIGHT!!! Congratulations.

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