As military operations in Afghanistan wind down, more of our troops are headed home. Three Marines were back in the Heartland Saturday.
We've seen them so often that these military homecomings are in danger of becoming routine. For the troops and military families involved, each tour is anything but routine. Each deployment is frightening, every homecoming joyous.
Saturday afternoon, Channel 6 News witnessed a 21-year-old's return from his first tour and greeted by his family. Each greeting is unique, every return a private moment.
The first to greet Lance Cpl. Jonathan Graham was his mother. It has been a long seven months for everyone, but the private moment between mother and returning son was precious.
"Sheer happiness and I loved it," said Lance Cpl. Graham. "I'm really glad to be back and really glad that she did well with me being gone."
During his time in Afghanistan, Cpl. Graham was promoted to Lance Cpl. and he turned 21 years old.
Carol Graham may have grown more during the deployment, just to keep in touch with her son. "We didn't Skype, he called every once in a while. A lot of email, Facebook. I joined Facebook just for that reason."
Family and friends will keep a close eye on the returning Marines to make sure they're adjusting to civilian life. For now, the Grahams will let Jonathan lead the way.
"Probably go to McDonald's, that would be my guess," said Mike Graham. "I don't know, it's hard to say but whatever he wants to do is what we're going to do."
This was the last group of Heartland Marines based out of Omaha's USMC Reserve returning from a war zone. The returning Marines will rest for a few days, then return to their lives. Jonathan wants to go to school and take courses in exercise and nutrition science.