SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Nothing Says Home Like The Rain
By Marie L. Monyak


January 23, 2006
Monday AM

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.

gif correctionSix 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.

jgp troops welcomed home in rain

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.

jpg troops welcomed

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.

jpg troops welcomed by mayor

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:

Homecoming Photo Gallery by Lisa and Carl Thompson


Marie L. Monyak is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Contact Marie at

Publish A Letter on SitNews
        Read Letters/Opinions
Submit A Letter to the Editor

Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska