View Full Version : Hundreds show up to welcome Kilo Company to Terre Haute

05-01-07, 09:40 AM
Hundreds show up to welcome Kilo Company to Terre Haute
By Arthur Foulkes
The Tribune-Star

Terre Haute — Lance Cpl. Brandon Woods lost two of his best friends while serving in Iraq with the Kilo Company 3rd Battalion 24th Marines Reservists of Terre Haute.

Woods, 21, of Terre Haute, was one of more than 50 Marines with Kilo Company to return to Terre Haute on Saturday night. He and the rest of the Terre Haute-based Marines had been in Iraq since September of last year.

“I knew Lance Corporal [Joshua] Hines really well,” Woods said of his friend who was killed in Iraq last October.

Hines, 26, of Westfield, Ill., and Sgt. Brock Babb, 40, of Evansville were killed after an improvised explosive device hit the Humvees they were riding in the western Al Anbar province of Iraq, about 50 miles west of Baghdad. They, along with more than a dozen members of Kilo Company wounded in Iraq, will be honored in a special service Friday in Terre Haute.

Marine Lance Cpl. Joshua Bleill of Greenfield was badly injured in the attack that killed Hines and Babb.

Woods said Hines was an outstanding leader and a good friend. He knew Babb also, but only got to know his other fallen comrade shortly before his death.

“They are my heroes,” said Connie Conway, a Terre Haute resident who has kept in touch with Woods and a number of other Wabash Valley military personnel serving in Iraq for the past three years.

In addition to showing her support for the troops through letters and e-mail, Conway sends care packages containing beef jerky, soup, shampoo and other prized goods to servicemen and servicewomen serving in Iraq. She was one of the hundreds of local residents waiting at the United States Marine Corps Reserve Center when they came home.

“We had no clue” the welcome would be so warm, Woods said of the greeting he and the other Kilo Company Marines received in Indianapolis and all along their route from the state capital to Terre Haute. “It was a lot more than I expected.”

In addition to being greeted by thousands of cheering well-wishers all along their route from Indianapolis, the Marines were escorted home by more than 450 motorcyclists, including hundreds from the Patriot Guard Riders, a nationwide organization of motorcycle riders formed to honor American servicemen and servicewomen.

“It was a ride of respect,” said Mike Grayless, a Wabash Valley member of the PGR who took part in the ride. “It was our honor to do it.”

“I’m getting goose bumps just thinking about it,” Conway said of the motorcycle escort. Motorcyclists led the Marines from the Indianapolis International Airport to the Marine Corps Reserve Center on Fruitridge Avenue in Terre Haute.

The Marines’ welcome back to Indiana “was better than any parade,” said 1st Sgt. Troy Euclide of Kilo Company. “Terre Haute and the surrounding community did everything right,” he said.

Of the returning Marines, 10 or 12 were returning from second tours of duty in Iraq, Euclide said.

Woods and other Wabash Valley Marines had been stationed in Fallujah, a city in Iraq where some of the most ferocious fighting of the war has taken place. Much of Woods’ mission involved checking and searching cars at Entry Control Points in Fallujah, he said.

“They never complain,” Conway said of the Marines and other servicemen and servicewomen she communicates with in Iraq. “They are there to do what they’ve got to do,” she said.

In addition to the constant threat of explosives and other attacks, American troops in Iraq also have the Middle East’s difficult weather to contend with, including occasional sandstorms and, in the summer, intense heat.

Summers in Iraq get “really hot,” Woods said. Winter weather is cold and rainy, “like Terre Haute without the snow,” he said.

Woods, who joined the Marine Corps in 2004 after graduating from North Vigo High School, said he has no second thoughts and no regrets about volunteering to serve in the Marine Corps in middle of a war. His parents worried about the decision, but he never did, he said.

“It’s something I always wanted to do,” Woods said. “Why not [serve with] the best?”

Arthur Foulkes can be contacted at (812) 231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com.