Friday, September 12, 2014

The Virginia Town that Brought the Wounded Soldiers Back Home

by Nomad

This may not be a big story but it's worth telling. When the residents of one Virginia town heard the call for help, they didn't think twice.
For two dozen injured soldiers, the symbolism of the moment must have meant a lot.

Something kind of special happened the other day when the town of Colonial Beach, Virginia (population 3,542) decided to honor 24 injured soldiers from Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
A local radio DJ who goes by the name of  Ripley was the prime mover behind the idea of throwing a "Welcome Home Celebration" for injured servicemen, women, their caretakers and guests. The Yellow Ribbon Fund, an organization hich supports injured vets and their families, also pitched in.  
Ripley explained:
"After speaking with two of our station advertisers, one a restaurant and the other a Harley-Davidson Dealer, they threw their entire support for this event,"
Despite a lot of logistical planning, the unexpected happened. On the way to the ceremony, the bus carrying the wounded servicemen broke down on Route 205 just inside the Westmoreland County line.
What might have been a big disappointment for the soldiers and their families was suddenly turned around by the swift response of the townspeople. 

According to an article in The Journal, residents of the town arrived in a envoy of cars, vans and SUVs to rescue the two dozen stranded servicemen. 

Bus driver Vincent Randle told the reporter:
The people of the town came to get them. They were very helpful It was a blessing in disguise. You don’t always see that.”
According to  Randle, while the caravan retrieved the wounded veterans, another truck was sent from Colonial Beach to pick up the other equipment like wheelchairs and other equipment needed by the Walter Reed patients. The owner of a local cab and shuttle service, Denise Anderson, sent two taxis to bring the soldiers into town. 

The Walter Reed soldiers reportedly arrived in town "escorted by more than 150 motorcycles, many of them ridden by veterans." In addition the escort included law enforcement agencies from three different jurisdictions in Maryland and Virginia. Ripley to local reporters:
"Many people lined the streets, with flags and yellow ribbons to show their support and say 'Welcome Home' and thanks for your service."
The veterans were then treated to a lunch at the local restaurant "and spirited music by the band Rock Bottom at the adjoining Black Pearl Tiki Bar." 
Quite an image, right?

Meanwhile, while everybody was having fun at the Polynesia bar, Michael Mothershead, of Colonial Beach, and Giovanni Pompell, of LaPlata, Md. purchased a new hose to replace the busted one. Making sure the bus was ready for the return trip to Walter Reed was no big deal. Pompell explained:
“These people fought for us. Somebody had to do something.”  
A two-tour Vietnam combat veteran and resident of Colonial Beach, Bob McKenney was equally nonchalant about the incident.
“No man left behind, that’s what we do.”
A story like this would never make the international news- it probably happens a lot more than we recognize. Still it's always nice when average people come together spontaneously to do the right thing. I guess it shows, no matter how depressing things can be, all isn't lost. 

So, here's a salute to the honorable people of Colonial Beach and the injured servicemen they brought home and honored.