Thirteen Marines flying into Chicago's O'Hare airport for a brief layover while returning home from seven months in Afghanistan were greeted with a hero’s welcome.
O’Hare’s USO volunteer John Colas, a former Marine, got a phone call from Stephanie Hare, fiancée of one of the Marines, Capt. Pravin Rajan, letting him know the soldiers would be stopping in Chicago. With only an hour to prepare, Colas managed to get a water cannon salute from firetrucks, along with a group of firemen and policemen, as well as others, to cheer and form a corridor for the soldiers to walk through as they disembarked.
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“It was incredibly touching,” Rajan told The Associated Press
on the telephone from California’s Camp Pendleton. “Afghanistan is a very complex and ambiguous war ... and a difficult thing to keep track of so it is amazing when we are 10 years (into) a war and there is still that kind of community, that level of support, the level of willingness to go out of one's way.”
The soldiers, who had been traveling for about five days, were also honored aboard the American Airlines flight that would take them on the final leg of their journey to California. The airline upgrades soldiers flying whenever it can and announced that six of the 13 could move to first class.
But when the announcement was made, seven first-class passengers offered their seats to the other seven Marines so they could all stay together, theAP said.
“It always gives me goose bumps when we have so many people, especially when you get the public involved with it,” the USO's Lindsy Wadas told ABC 10 News
. “It gets to be awesome; people do care about our military and want to welcome them.”
A military liaison with American Airlines, Linda Kozma, told ABC the soldiers were grateful.
“Oh my gosh, they were ever so grateful,” she said. “They asked if they could hug us, shook our hands, very thankful, especially after coming off a transport for five days. We will never forget them.”
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