Veteran returns to Craig and a grateful community
April 23, 2012
“It’s wonderful. It’s so nice to have him here, and not over there wondering what he’s doing and if he’s in harm’s way. We love him to death, but you can’t have him home too long even though we want him here forever.” — Shirley McCarthy, Marine Corps. Lance Cpl. Kaleb McCarthy’s mother
It was everything a Marine's welcome home should be.
There was cake, cocktails, and a lot of happy friends, family, and people from the community the man of the hour didn't even know.
"It's actually a very big crowd," Lance Cpl. Kaleb McCarthy said.
"I wasn't expecting this. I don't know half of these guys, but they're all prior service members and I am happy to be with them."
On Sunday, the parking lot at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265, 419 E. Victory Way, was packed with cars, and the post restaurant was near capacity with Craig residents.
All were on hand to celebrate the safe return of McCarthy, 21, who returned March 27 to the U.S. after serving his second tour of duty with Fox Company, Second Battalion, in the Fourth Marine Division. He was stationed in Musa Qala, located in the southeastern Afghan province of Helmand.
"It's wonderful. It's so nice to have him here, and not over there wondering what he's doing and if he's in harms way," said Shirley McCarthy, Kaleb's mother.
"We love him to death, but you can't have him home too long even though we want him here forever."
However joyous the occasion, McCarthy is an enlisted man.
After he celebrates his 22nd birthday Wednesday, he will return to Camp Pendleton near Oceanside, Calif., to continue mandatory classes. McCarthy enlisted in the Marine Corps in August 2008.
His scheduled discharge date is Aug. 2.
After four years in the military, the classes are intended to help servicemen re-enter civilian life.
"It's about simple things," McCarthy said.
"Learning how not to take your aggressions out on your loved ones, the freedom of being able to choose what you want to have for breakfast, and staying on track to get out of the Marine Corps for those of us that are getting out.
"We've been on edge for seven months, not knowing from one moment to the next what's going to happen. You'd be surprised how difficult it is for some folks to make simple every day decisions after you've been in that kind of a situation."
Once discharged, McCarthy said he plans to move to Colorado Springs with his wife of almost two years, Alexis, and go to college to study criminal justice.
The long-term goal is a career in the U.S. Marshals service.
For now, however, McCarthy is taking his last few months of military service in stride.
On Sunday, he honored one of the Marine Corps’ oldest traditions.
When asked to cut the welcome home cake, McCarthy invited the oldest Marine veteran in the crowd, Jim Meineke, to join him.
McCarthy cut out the first slice and served it to Meineke. Meineke then took the knife and carved out a second for McCarthy.
"It's a Marine tradition, or maybe even a ceremony, usually reserved for the Marine Corps Ball," McCarthy said.
"It symbolizes the passing of tradition from the youngest Marine back to the oldest Marine."
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