As I turned on to the street that leads to our subdivision, I was taken aback to see thousands of people lining both sides of the street. They were all holding American flags and homemade signs. There were police cars everywhere. And then I remembered; the marine was coming home today.
Someone had left a flyer on our front door. A young marine who had been injured in Afghanistan was coming home for his 21st birthday. And, it turned out, his family lives around the corner from us.
When the weather is good and we walk the neighborhood, we go right by their house. I have exchanged pleasantries with his father many times, though I do not know them well. The flyer asked that people come out to show support. I was sorry we would not be home to do so.
Then I ended up stopping by the house just in time for the motorcade. All our neighbors were out in their yards with chairs, holding flags and signs. I ran up to my daughter's room and grabbed her little American flag. I plopped her in a chair with a juice box and some Goldfish and told her to wave her flag for the soldier:
And then Tyler, the young marine, passed by riding in the sidecar of a motorcycle. You would never know from the smile on his face that he had lost both his legs and one arm. He looked incredibly happy and proud, and waved at us as he went by.
He was followed by more than 200 motorcycles who met him at the state line and escorted him home, as this video (taken with my iPhone) shows:
I had goosebumps. It was incredibly moving; to see such a display of the American spirit. Thousands of people who have never met this young marine or each other came together to show their support. They cheered him on alongside his friends and neighbors.
People of all political persuasions (and I can tell you that our neighbors run the gamut in that regard), putting those differences aside to welcome home a hero. Perhaps the most touching image for me was the lone marine standing at attention in a driveway a few houses down from us in his dress uniform.
My daughter will never remember this experience, and she is too young to understand what it meant. But I was glad she was there to witness it. I wrote in an earlier post how proud I am to be an American. I want to instill that in her. I want the American spirit to run in her veins, too.
If you would like to learn more about the story of Tyler Southern, including a photo slideshow and professional video that provide a much better feel for the event, click here.