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thedrifter
05-21-07, 08:12 AM
Local Marines welcomed home
Sunday, May 20, 2007 8:53 PM CDT

By Tony Sapochetti
tsapochetti@pantagraph.com

BLOOMINGTON -- It was written on the walls, painted on cars and could be found on the minds of everyone who came to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 454 on Sunday.

Welcome home Marines.

An open house for returning Twin City-area Marines Jim Alwes, Brody Burmaster, Ryan Hafley, and Chris Lattrell was held at the VFW, located at 1006 E. Lincoln St., and friends, families and well wishers could be seen coming in to tell them just one thing.

“We’re proud,” said Melanie Alwes of Normal, mother of Jim Alwes. “I’m proud of him for having a desire to just be willing to serve our country.”

The idea for an open house for the Marines came from the families of Alwes and Burmaster, whose sons have been best friends since first grade. While planning the event, they discovered that there were two other area Marines coming home, and the families made sure that they got a hero’s welcome.

However, Lattrell was unable to attend the open house because he was in California dealing with military matters.

“It’s always an honor for us to be able to express appreciation to the active duty Marines for their service to our country and the Corps,” said Rick Clem, commandant for Detachment 988 of the Marine Corps League, as he handed Alwes, Burmaster and Hafley certificates of appreciation.

“You have exemplified what it means to be a Marine by your service in Iraq,” he told them.

Even though Alwes, Burmaster and Hafley are leaving home in June and going back to Iraq by January, everyone wanted to make sure that they enjoyed themselves. And they wanted to reflect on the service that the Marines are doing.

“The first time that I knew Brody wanted to be a Marine was when he was about 6 and wanted to change his name to Joe so he could be like GI Joe,” said Sharon Burmaster of Bloomington, the mother of Brody Burmaster.

“This is my second son in the Marines ... so Jim is actually following in his brother Marc’s footsteps,” Alwes said. “They are both machine-gunners, so I say that they are young boys with big guns.”

The Marines themselves seem to be overwhelmed with the attention they were all getting. Burmaster said they might not consider themselves to be heroes, but just normal people.

“I think it’s really neat that all the parents put all of this together,” Jim Alwes said. “It’s just great being able to see all of the families and friends.”

Alwes said that he decided to go into the Marines during his senior year of high school, and he is definitely happy with his choice.

“Actually, I’m looking forward to it,” he said about going back to Iraq. “We did a lot with working with their military and to help them govern themselves. We did make a lot of progress.”

Jim might be excited to go back to completing his mission in Iraq, but his mother said she is always thinking about the well being of her sons.

“There are a lot of prayers when they are over there, a lot of prayers for their safety,” Melanie Alwes said.

Video from when the Marines returned from Iraq to the Marine Corps center in Twentynine Palms, Calif., was being displayed during the open house, but sadly one family has to wait a little longer to see Lattrell, who was still finalizing his separation from the Marines.

Ellie