One of the most beneficial parts of military service is the involvement of community before, during, and after its soldiers deploy. Support for the Triple Deuce has been overwhelming in all these phases, but is especially noticeable now that we have arrived back in Utah.
Shortly after I got off the plane last week in Salt Lake City, my youngest son solicited a ride atop my shoulders, which I was glad to do. One of the local television news crews took note, and we were glad to do a short homecoming interview with them. You can read or watch the story by clicking here (my interview begins somewhere in the middle of the story). The welcome home parties at the various airports were so large, that it often took several minutes for soldiers and their families to find each other.
The 2nd Battalion, 222nd Field Artillery is headquartered in Cedar City, Utah, with firing batteries in St. George and Richfield, and our Service Battery in Beaver. I live in north-central Utah and had occasion with my family to travel to St. George this past weekend, traveling through Beaver and Cedar on the way. I took several pictures of Welcome Home signs and banners along the way. I had no idea how many people in the communities, outside our own families, were interested in our safety and success.
As happens so often when time is involved, we've had to make a choice between two equally fun and supportive events this weekend, a fireworks show and tribute to the troops in northern Utah, and celebration for the troops in southern Utah. We elected the fireworks show because it is closer to home. It's difficult for us that we can't be to both.
Although I wasn't sure I'd be home in time, I was able to attend my 25th-year high school class reunion over the weekend. All of my old friends, and even classmates I hadn't known very well had become aware that I'd just gotten back from Iraq. They were at once supportive and very grateful for my service. On more than one occasion, classmates or their spouses were on the verge of (or into) tears as they expressed their appreciation. It's gratifying to me that, by a long shot, it's not just me that thinks what we're doing in Iraq is beneficial.
Of course the people of Iraq are better off for not only the Triple Deuce but for nearly all of the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines that have served and are serving in Iraq. The benefit that one does not often contemplate, however, is the catharsis that obtains to a community as it sends its sons and daughters with trepidation into harm's way, as it prays for their safe return, and as it either welcomes them safely home or thanks and honors those of its families whose soldiers gave the last full measure of their devotion to the cause of liberty.
Such a regeneration is currently very evident in the cities and towns of central and southern Utah. I am grateful for the opportunity I had to serve. I am also newly grateful that my community can be involved in the celebration of service to Iraq.