Jeff's Homecoming from Baghdad
We are coming off of the most wonderful days of our lives. Our son Jeff returned from a year in Baghdad. The plane touched down at 4:15 this morning at Biggs Air Field at Fort Bliss. Families were waiting in the staging area in large converted hangar. Some folks had been there for several hours being attested to by the pillows and blankets on the floor. Longtime friends, Don Wilcox and John Lamb surprised us yesterday at the airport by saying they wouldn't miss Jeff's homecoming for anything....Oh the value and treasure of such faithful friends. We all flew into El Paso yesterday then drove up to be with Jeff's wife Ashlie and their son Gentry and her family--Murnie and Jill Cauhape along with brothers Gentry and Nate. After a great Mexican food dinner at Chopi's--a Las Cruces favorite with the Cohape family, we drove back to El Paso to get a few hours sleep.
Ten minutes before touchdown, friends and family went out to the airfield to await touchdown. The plane went from Baghdad to Kuwait to Ireland and then to El Paso. As the soldiers deplaned, around 150 yards away, the army band played a number of patriotic songs, beginning with "Eye of the Tiger" and the crowd whistled and cheered. Jeff's company assembled in formation outside the plane and and with the band leading the way, the soldiers marched toward the roped off crowd. We then rushed back into the hangar and the company marched in to the cheering crowd. Jeff had the biggest grin on his face. It was so good to see Jeff! The 126th MP Company came to a halt, executed a right face towards the crowd and stood at parade rest simply to be admired. The Colonel gave a brief address, thanking the troops for their noble service and reminded the crowd that we were in the company of real heros. The chaplain prayed a prayer of thanksgiving and blessing. They were again called to attention and then dismissed. The families and friends were then given permission to hug their loved ones. Jeff had some good Christian buddies, particularly Ben Shockly--a great kid from Farmington.
Ashlie with Gentry made a bee-line for Jeff. Oh, it was so sweet to see the reunion. We got to hang out with Jeff for about an hour before they had to go turn in their weapons and get three day passes. The outprocessing will take take another week. While we were waiting for Jeff, Company Commander Ramos told us that they were returning from a difficult year of intense action and the 126th performed with excellence. His mission was to bring every man back safely and he nearly succeeded, only losing one man to a roadside mine. Their losses were minimal compared to the loses some companies suffered. After reuniting with Jeff we went to Denny's for breakfast and then drove back to Jeff and Ashlies house in Las Cruces were Jeff unpacked his treasures from Iraq--not exactly the spoils of war but great souvenirs--books on Iraq, stamp and money collections, a few silk scarfs and a bunch of dessert hats. Jeff told us a bunch of stories that he couldn't tell us when he was home on leave. Some were rather frightening and by the grace of God he returned unharmed. While we were at dinner late this afternoon, Donny arranged for a fraternity brother, 3 Star General Jan Huley to give Jeff a call. All we heard Jeff say was, "Thank you sir.....Thank you very much sir.... It was a pleasure to serve my country sir.... I learned a lot sir and had some great experiences." It was pretty cool.
Can we say we are thankful? When I think of great days in my life I think of the day Liz and I were married, the births of Andy, Jeff and Kacey, Andy and Jeff's wedding and this...Jeff--coming home in the company of other heros. Thanks Jeff. Great to have you home!