Gates Joins Revelers to Welcome Troops Home
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
DALLAS, May. 3, 2007 Almost 200 deployed troops got a Texas-sized homecoming today as Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates joined hundreds of friends, family members and local residents to welcome them home from the Middle East for two weeks of rest and recuperation leave.
Kimberly Smith embraces Army Spc. Corie Barran at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport after he arrives home May 3 for two weeks of rest and recuperation leave from his deployment to Iraq. Photo by Donna Miles
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Gates took his place alongside the flag-waving, banner-carrying, chanting revelers gathered at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport’s International Arrivals Terminal to meet the troops as their flight arrived from Kuwait. He shook hands with every arriving servicemember and thanked them for their service.
“These kinds of public receptions are really important,” the secretary said later during a speech at the Greater Dallas Chamber of Commerce. “Whatever disagreements exist over the war in Iraq, we are all united in our admiration of the men and women who have volunteered to serve our nation during these challenging times.”
Homecoming receptions are a daily occurrence here, part of a “Welcome Home a Hero” initiative designed to let troops know they’ve got the country’s support.
“We want them to arrive home and know that somebody cares,” said Gary Raines, a Vietnam veteran who’s a regular at the homecomings. “Nobody welcomed us home, and we never want that to happen again.”
“I can’t think of anything more worthwhile than letting these people know that we support them,” agreed Wayne Trevathan, an Air Force veteran of the Vietnam War.
Raines, Trevathan and other members of Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 90, based in nearby Denton, had plenty of company here today.
The Dallas Tap Dazzlers, a senior ladies dance group, arrived in tap shoes, fishnet stockings and sparkly red, white and blue jackets emblazoned with a Lone Star to perform for the group.
One member, Joyce Lawrence, had special reason to be excited at today’s performance. Her grandson, Army Spc. Daniel Black, who’s been serving in Baghdad since early November, was among the arriving troops.
“I am just so excited; I’m beside myself,” Lawrence gushed. “This is a really, really wonderful day.”
Nova and Tim Dea hoisted a giant “Welcome Home, Jordan!” sign as they awaited their first glimpse of their son, Army Pfc. Jordan Dea, a Fort Bliss, Texas-based soldier serving near Mosul, Iraq.
“The webcam has been awesome, but we can’t wait to get our hands on him,” Nova said. “We’ve been looking forward to this day for a long time.”
Kimberly Smith came dressed to the nines with a strapless sundress and fresh manicure to see her boyfriend, Army Spc. Corie Barran, walk through the arrivals gate. “This is so exciting,” Smith said, apologizing as the tears she’d promised herself not to cry began to well up in her eyes.
Smith and Barran, a member of the Texas National Guard’s 89th Military Police Brigade, had big plans for the afternoon. A highlight, she said, would be a surprise visit to the school where Barran’s mom works.
“She knows he’s coming home, but she doesn’t know it’s today,” Smith said. “She is going to be really, really surprised.”
Smith said the crowd at the airport made the day even more special. “It’s just overwhelming,” she said. “This is going to give them a real sense of being home and let them know that lots of people love them, not just their families.”
Eleven-year-old Nicholas Haskell waited impatiently with his mother, Christina, and 15-month-old brother, Andrew, as word rang out that the soldiers’ flight had arrived and the crowd burst into applause.
Nicholas said he was looking forward to celebrating his birthday, albeit it one day late, with the best gift a kid could ever have – his dad home safe. “I’ll do anything to get to see my dad,” he said.
The activity picked up as the crowd anticipated the troops’ arrival. Lee Greenwood’s “Proud to Be an American” rang through the terminal. Nineteen second graders from the Westlake Academy waved flags; an employee group from Atmos Energy held up a company banner and cheered; and a sign language choir from Dallas’ Samuell High School performed.
As the first soldiers entered the terminal, the crowd erupted into hoots and hollers.
Hands extended to every soldier, along with expressions of welcome and thanks for their service. Troops beamed as they pushed their luggage carts through the gauntlet of well-wishers.
Family members flung arms around their loved ones, reveling in the long-anticipated reunions. Amid all the activity around them, sweethearts savored long, private embraces. Children buried their heads in their fathers’ chests.
“This is great! It’s absolutely awesome!” beamed Spc. Juan Munoz, a 1st Cavalry Division soldier who held his wife, Cynthia, closely by his side.
“I just love everybody being out here,” he said. “It really shows their support. And it makes it feel so great to be home.”