TribLIVE

| USWorld


 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Marines returning home from Afghanistan get hero's welcome at Chicago airport

Daily Photo Galleries

By The Associated Press
Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013, 6:30 p.m.
 

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

Most-Read Nation

  1. Warhol bodyguard sued over hidden artwork
  2. 2 California deputies slain, suspect captured
  3. New York, New Jersey order 21-day quarantine of all in contact with Ebola virus
  4. Lawyer turns down AG post
  5. Vehicle smashes Commandments on capitol grounds in Oklahoma City
  6. U.S. rules out apology to Pyongyang in exchange for 2 imprisoned Americans
  7. Test confirms remains are missing Virginia student’s
  8. Seattle area school homecoming ‘prince’ guns down classmates
  9. Philadelphia Mafia figure returned to prison for meeting friend
  10. Crowd at Met protests ‘Death of Klinghoffer,’ calling opera anti-Semitic
  11. Immigration work permits could rise under contract
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.