Marines returning home from Afghanistan get hero's welcome at Chicago airport
CHICAGO — It didn't matter that the 13 Marines on their way home from Afghanistan had been fighting in a war that no longer dominates the news or that they were stopping only for a short time in Chicago before flying to San Diego.
When USO volunteer John Colas heard with just an hour's notice that the Marines' plane was bearing down on Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, he and others scrambled to make sure they got a hero's welcome.
“We want these kids coming home to realize that they haven't been forgotten,” said Colas, a 74-year-old retired Marine.
The reception started with a water salute in which their plane taxied underneath an arch of water from fire truck hoses.
The Marines, who had spent the better part of five days getting on and off planes to get home from the other side of the world, were then met by a small crowd of cheering USO volunteers, firefighters, police officers and airport workers as they walked into the terminal.
A short time later, boarding another jet for San Diego, the Marines learned that American Airlines, which has a policy to upgrade servicemen and women in uniform whenever possible, had six empty seats in first class for the group.
That gesture was followed by seven first-class passengers who jumped out of their seats for the other Marines so they could sit together.
“It was incredibly touching,” Capt. Pravin Rajan said on returning to Camp Pendleton in California. “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 welcome home had started with a phone call. Stephanie Hare, a native of Illinois who now works in England, called the USO at O'Hare and explained to Colas that her fiance, Rajan, who had served for seven months in Afghanistan, was with a dozen other Marines on a plane bound for Chicago from Baltimore.
Colas got on the phone with the police and fire departments and the airlines.
“There must have been 15 Chicago firemen and an equal number of Chicago police, and they formed a corridor for the Marines when they got off the airplane,” he said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- VA Phoenix social worker on leave for Halloween costume
- Video prompts calls for probe of Chicago police
- Student dies in traditional Ohio State University lake jump
- Ads for Nazi-themed show pulled from NYC subways
- U.S. has urged legal reforms abroad to block Islamic State recruits
- Peanut glut poses hefty bailout tab for taxpayers
- New Hampshire cancer patient gets permission to travel to Maine for medical pot
- Barrier nears completion in Indiana marsh to keep Asian carp from Great Lakes
- U.S. troops suspended in airstrike on Afghan hospital
- ‘Crisis mode’ near at U.S.-Mexico line as nearly 5,000 children try to cross border in October
- Obama signs $607B Defense bill but blasts GOP limits for Gitmo