The incredible “welcome home” story of 13 U.S. Marines who had spent five days traveling from Afghanistan will bring tears to your eyes.
It started with a phone call from Stephanie Hare Monday who called the United Service Organizations at Chicago O’Hare International Airport to give a heads up that her fiancée, Capt. Pravin Rajan, and 12 other Marines were on their way home, the Associated Press reported.
Retired Marine and USO volunteer John Colas, 74, “told Hare he’d try to do something in the hour or so before the flight landed,” but was unsure if there was enough time for him to organize something, the article said.
Oh, did he ever pull it off! Our American heroes received the warmest – and sort of, wettest – of welcomes.
According to the Associated Press courtesy of Fox News:
Colas got on the phone with the police and fire departments, the airlines and anyone else he could think of.
After their plane taxied beneath an arch of water from fire department hoses in what is called a water salute, the Marines walked into the terminal and were met by a small crowd of cheering USO volunteers, firefighters, police officers and airport workers.
“There must have been 15 Chicago firemen and an equal number of Chicago police and they formed a corridor for the Marines when they got off the airplane,” he said.
A short time later, boarding another jet for San Diego, the Marines learned that American Airlines — which has a policy to upgrade servicemen and women in uniform whenever possible — had six empty seats in first class for the group.
That gesture was followed by seven first-class passengers who jumped out of their seats for the other Marines so they could sit together.
The wire service was able to catch up via telephone with Rajan once he arrived at Camp Pendleton. Rajan expressed his thanks for the reception:
“It was incredibly touching. Afghanistan is a very complex and ambiguous war … and a difficult thing to keep track of so it is amazing when we are 10 years (into) a war and there is still that kind of community, that level of support, the level of willingness to go out of one’s way.”