Nothing Says Home Like The
By Marie L. Monyak
January 23, 2006
Ketchikan, Alaska - When you've been in the arid desert with
temperatures well above 100 degrees, nothing says you're home
like the rain, good old wet Ketchikan rain and there was plenty
of it to greet the seven Alaska Army National Guardsmen returning
home from Iraq Sunday night.
of the seven soldiers expected, arrived home Sunday. Robert Bates,
Kevin Clevenger, John Day, Ed Irizarry, Jason Kiern and Rodney
Perez appeared blissfully happy to be home. Jerry Lee Caspersen
of Metlakatla didn't arrive with the troops as he's in Anchorage
for the next few weeks attending a class.
Welcome home troops!
Photo by Lisa Thompson ©2006
The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4352 had alerted the town of
the impending return of the troops and Ketchikan turned out in
true form, regardless of the pouring rain. The entire parking
lot on the Ketchikan side of the airport ferry was filled to
overflowing. Once every space was filled, vehicles were left
haphazardly where they stopped and no one cared or complained.
Red, white and blue helium balloons tied to every available post
and structure struggled to float freely in the heavy downpour.
Clifford Bolton, clenching a large bundle of the balloons said
he wasn't waiting on anyone in particular; he just wanted to
welcome all the troops.
The Ketchikan rain couldn't dampen the spirit of the Kayhi band
as they performed with slippery wet fingers on instrument keys.
No one minded much if a wrong note was played, they were there
and that's what mattered.
Also present to show their
support were the KIC Intertribal Dancers: Verna, Misty, Hitsati
and Catherine Hudson, Elma Guthrie and Cindy Haven. Even Verna
Hudson's drum exhibited her patriotism as it was painted with
an American Bald Eagle emblazoned over the American Flag.
Robert Bates and troops
are greeted and welcomed home.
Photo by Lisa Thompson ©2006
Standing in the rain, waiting to greet Ed Irizarry and the troops,
was Marsha George who said half of her church had turned out
to welcome the troops home.
City Mayor Bob Weinstein and Borough Mayor Joe Williams accompanied
by daughter Stephanie, standing on opposite sides of a large
gathering, echoed almost identical sentiments, stating that they
just wanted to show their support and welcome the troops home.
Four year old Danny Lieben accompanied by his father and School
Board member Dave Lieben, held an American flag as he waited
patiently for the ferry. Patriotism begins at a young age. With
the tiniest bit of shyness, the younger Lieben said, "My
name is Danny and I'm waiting for Ed [Irizarry]."
And he didn't wait much longer as the ferry finally approached
and up the ramp our heroes came, escorted in cars driven by family
and friends. Soldiers reluctantly left the sides of loved ones
so recently reunited with, long enough to accept the honor Ketchikan
was bestowing upon them.
Sgt. Ed Irizarry is
welcomed by Ketchikan Borough Mayor/
Saxman City Mayor Joe Williams who was among the many
who turned out to welcomed home our troops Sunday.
Photograph by Carl Thompson ©2006
The returning soldiers were walking amongst friends and neighbors,
accepting the accolade offered by a grateful community. Hugs
and tears. Handshakes and salutes. Thank you! Welcome home! Small
gestures, but with tremendous meaning.
An elderly gentleman standing alone with the posture of an old
soldier, declined to give his name but did say, "I just
wanted to see the guys come in from the battlefield over there."
Spoken like one who's been there.
And make no mistake, it was a battlefield, as Ed Irizarry, speaking
for the group of soldiers said, "Out of our brigade combat
team, we had 16 killed, 104 wounded and luckily, our unit - we're
all good, we're all good."
Sharon and Dick Monrean, showing their patriotism, proudly wore
jackets with the American flag embossed on the back. Sharon Monrean
expressed her sentiment, "I wouldn't be here today, able
to choose the things I want to do if it wasn't for the people
that chose to go over there and put their lives on the line,
and I thank them."
"God bless America, it's good to be home," Irizarry
said thankfully, "this was my first combat zone and I've
been able to come home, and as I say, bring no empty boots."
It doesn't take a soldier, or a veteran, to understand the meaning
of what Irizarry said, it explains itself, and on this rainy
night, Ketchikan and Metlakatla were jubilant that there were
no empty boots brought home.
From a grateful town and country... welcome home fathers, brothers,
husband, uncles, friends, soldiers. Welcome home.
On the Web:
Marie L. Monyak is
a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Homecoming Photo Gallery
by Lisa and Carl Thompson
Contact Marie at email@example.com
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