We got to Jacksonville around 5:30 p.m. Sept. 30. They had had over 12 inches of rain in the past six hours and a total of 21 inches since Sept. 26. I saw flooded yards, some houses and there were spots that 4 inches of water was running over the road. It's usually a four-hour drive, and it took us six.
We went to the base at 7:30 to get a pass because my grandson Devan was supposed to be on the base around 10 or 11, returning from months in Afghanistan.
The base was shut down because the main road into the base was flooded and the base commander had shut it down. We were told to come back at 9 a.m. Oct. 1. I had already turned around when I got a call to say they had just opened the base. I cut across traffic, broke at least five laws, but got back to the pass building. A lot of the folks who had come to welcome their loved ones home had left and gone back to their hotels.
The welcoming ceremony was held in a real small gym. We got there at 9 p.m., got us a small folding metal chair and waited, and waited, and waited. At 2:45 a.m., the buses arrived with the troops. It was worth the wait. It's hard to describe the joy on the faces of these really, really young men when they marched into that gym. The Marines cried, the families and friends cried, and yes, I cried too. Anybody that don't like that can kiss my grits.
We were to spend some time with Devan on Oct. 1, and he had to be back on base the morning of Oct. 2. It'll probably be the following weekend before he can come home.
Chuck, Bobbi, Jackie and I want to thank everyone for their prayers during the past seven months. I truly believe that is what brought him home. We talked to the company chaplain who had come home a week early to set up the homecoming, and he told us these boys had been in one of the most dangerous areas in Afghanistan.
He was so proud of each and everyone of them. He said that you could judge a group by how the "big brass" treated them. Gen. David Petraeus, and the Marine commandant had visited this small group, with the press and lauded them for the job they had done. He told us they lost six men out of 150, one being killed the last day before they were moved to a "safe" base to prepare to come home.
If it sounds like I'm bragging, so be it. I tried to touch and speak to everyone of these young men. They are heroes. It was an honor for this old man to be in the midst of these Marines and to know that my grandson is one of them.
The writer lives in Great Falls.