Print Young soldiers return home
Written by Mark Lineberger   
Wednesday, 05 January 2011 00:00

Lance Cpl. Andrew Brooks, a Marine whose homecoming was celebrated by the American Legion Riders in Camp Verde on Sunday, Jan. 2, gives a hug to a friend. The local motorcyclists routinely sponsor homecoming rides for soldiers finishing their tours or simply home on leave.While the clouds eventually hid the sun Sunday afternoon, Jan. 2, the skies were bright and blue over Camp Verde around 1 p.m., where a crowd of people began to gather outside American Legion Post No. 93 on Third Street.

Most were dressed casually, but the honor guard stood ready in their full crisp white uniforms. They were all there waiting to greet three guests of honor whose imminent arrival was unmistakable as motorcycle engines rumbled in the distance.

The leather-clad bikers soon arrived by the dozens.

They were the American Legion Riders, complete with escorts from the Camp Verde Fire District and local law enforcement.

Marine Lance Cpl. Preston Brogdon, right, home on leave from his tour of duty on the Somali coast, greets friends and well-wishers before leaving for the ride.The group remembers the welcome, or lack thereof, many servicemen received back in the Vietnam era, and has made a commitment to make sure today’s warriors know their service is appreciated.

The riders were soon off their bikes to form a human corridor their honored guests could walk through.

The guests arrived in the back of a classic Chevy pickup, labeled the Hometown Hero Express.

It’s an appropriate designation.

The guests were young, but they’ve already done more than many folks will ever do.

Navy Hospitalman Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan Boudreau, second from right, chats with family and friends before heading out on a ride with the American Legion Riders in Camp Verde on Sunday, Jan. 2. The first VIP was Lance Cpl. Andrew Brooks, a native Arizonan and a 2005 graduate from Camp Verde High School. His current vocation is to serve alongside the few and the proud as a machine gunner with the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Division, Lima Company. Brooks is stationed stateside out of Camp Pendelton, Calif., and recently returned from serving on active duty on the other side of the world in southern Afghanistan.

He was joined by fellow Devil Dog and Camp Verde High School 2007 graduate, Lance Cpl. Preston Brogdon. Brogdon serves with the 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Charlie Company, recently onboard the USS Palau. Brogdon’s mission was on the high seas off the coast of the eastern African nation of Somalia, where he and his fellow Marines and sailors were engaged in counter-piracy missions.

American servicemen, from left, Marine Lance Cpl. Preston Brogdon, Marine Lance Cpl. Andrew Brooks and U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan Boudreau receive a heroes’ welcome ride through Camp Verde.Rounding out the trio of honored guests was Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan Boudreau, a member of the U.S. Navy stationed out of Okinawa, Japan.

Bourdreau, who grew up in the Verde Valley and graduated from Mingus Union High School in 2005, served as a Naval Fleet Marine Corpsman in Iraq in 2009, a medical services specialist. Boudreau was recently sent to serve out of Bethesda, Md.

Before heading inside the legion for lunch to honor their service and welcome return to the United States of America, the young men received salutes from the honor guard and leadership of the local post.

Many of the men at the legion were a bit older than the three servicemen in the spotlight, but they all share the experience of serving their country overseas, an experience among veterans that transcends age.

In fact, it’s not entirely accurate to call these three “guests” at all. It was clear from their reception in Camp Verde they were part of an extended family made up of those who have answered the call to serve.

Post Commander Tom Dimock said a few words to thank the men for their service, but perhaps Sharon Doran with the American Legion Auxiliary said it best when she simply told them, “Welcome home.”