View Full Version : Marines receive heroes' welcome

10-08-05, 07:04 AM
Marines receive heroes' welcome
Lyons' mother: 'I'm so glad they're home'
News Journal staff report

COLUMBUS -- The mother of a Mansfield Marine killed in Iraq in July was among a sea of cheering family members who welcomed his company home Friday.

Phyllis Lyons' son Christopher was among 16 Marines of Columbus-based Lima Company who died in combat.

"I'm watching everyone hug and kiss," Lyons said from Rickenbacker Airport shortly after noon when the News Journal called her cell phone.

"I could not not come. This is for Christopher. I know he's looking down and saying this is sweet."

Christopher Lyons, who worked as an advertising representative at the News Journal, was killed July 28 in western Iraq in an attack by insurgents with rocket-propelled grenades and small arms. He also is survived by his widow, Bethany, and infant daughter, Ella.

People waving flags along a 20-mile parade route roared as four buses passed carrying the 140 Marines of Lima Company from Port Columbus to Rickenbacker across town. Some of the Ohio reservists wrote "thank you" on pieces of paper that they held up to the windows.

Lima Company, a branch of the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines, lost nine of its members in the deadliest roadside bombing of U.S. troops in Iraq. The unit's Friday homecoming capped a tour that began in January.

"Of course this is bittersweet, but it's more sweet than bitter," Lyons said as she watched family members embrace the returning Marines.

"When the buses rolled in, I lost it for a little bit, but I know Christopher would be happy for them.

"Everyone is still milling about, standing in the rain. Some of the other families who lost their sons came too. Some of the parents brought their sons over to meet me. It honors my son's memory to do this and I know that he was here."

"I'm so glad they are home," she said.

Sgt. Alex Rozanski of Columbus couldn't believe he was back.

"I still don't believe we're home," he said after he kissed his fiancee. "Everything is just so surreal right now. I can't believe it's over. It's the greatest day of my life."

Lance Cpl. Craig Miller held his 3-week-old son Madden for the first time and carried him around through the parking lot, showing him off to his friends.

"He's so beautiful, and it's so wonderful to see him," he said.

The estimated 1,000 family members waited several hours in a Navy hangar for the Marines, the push of the crowd snapping a strip of yellow tape around the waiting area.

After the Marines unloaded buses out of their relatives' sight, a drum corps played a march step rhythm and the crowd screamed as reservists in neat lines rounded a corner.

"He's right there, baby," one woman breathed in disbelief as the Marines halted in front of the group. As the troops turned to face their family, she yelled. "He's right there!"

Mothers shook with tears as they spotted their sons' faces. Then the Marines heard the word they'd been waiting for so long: Dismissed.

Several Marines' knees buckled as screaming, crying family members swarmed around them.

Sadness touched the reunion when the reservists recalled the Marines who did not make it home.

"I'm happy and ecstatic, but I just wish that our fallen brothers could have experienced that, too," said Gunnery Sgt. Shawn Delgado.

The parents of one of the Lima Company Marines killed in the bombing -- Sgt. Justin Hoffman, 27, of Delaware -- said their son would have wanted them at the reunion.

"This really is like a family," Chuck Hoffman, 59, said. "If it weren't a family we would have just walked away, but they grieved with us so we want to rejoice with them."

More Marines from the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines, which lost a total of 48 members, returned to West Virginia, New York and two northeast Ohio cities.