ORLANDO – Calling it an issue of patriotism, not politics, Doug Guetzloe is encouraging his listeners on The Guetzloe Report radio program to establish a network of people involved in welcoming troops serving in the military overseas when they come back to Central Florida.
“I think we really need to establish a network to get people involved in welcoming our troops,” Guetzloe said. “We need to know when these companies are coming in.”
Guetzloe was at the scene on Feb. 24 when two buses transporting 50 Marine reservists traveled from Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune to the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Orlando. The soldiers, returning from Afghanistan, had served for 10 months overseas before returning home last week.
Guetzloe had encouraged a strong turnout at the event through his radio program and through an email blast letting people know the Marines were arriving.
“I was there with my son Jefferson and nearly a dozen listeners to The Guetzloe Report who responded to the email I sent out,” he said. “Even though we had no relatives on the bus, it was exciting and a very powerful, moving experience to see these Marines arrive back to home and hearth. Watching the families being reunited and being a part of this celebration to America’s greatness was awesome.”
The Marine Corps active duty personnel looked excited and thrilled to see so many family members, friends and loved ones turn out to welcome them home, he said.
“It was just totally all-American,” Guetzloe said. “It was a flag-waving event.”
“It was very short notice, but we wanted to try to spread the word,” said Cathy Haynes, a member of Blue Star Mothers, who helped get out the word about the homecoming.
“Their family and friends were there to greet there,” Haynes said. “We wanted to give these young people a pat on the back.”
Guetzloe said the Central Florida community needs a wide network of people who want to be notified whenever members of the Armed Services are returning to the region. Even on short notice, Guetzloe said, it would be terrific if every homecoming attracted a strong crowd to show the soldiers how much the people back home support them and their mission.
“The effort to support the troops has nothing to do with whether your support the war or don’t support the war, whether you support President Obama or don’t support him,” Guetzloe said, adding that when he went to the homecoming, “I got to talk to several of the Marines. They said they can’t wait to go back. They consider this a mission to spread freedom and justice to the world.”
For more than a decade, The Guetzloe Report has been supporting the troops by organizing an ongoing “Boxes for the Troops” campaign and “Christmas Cards for the Troops” program. This is another part of that effort, he said.
“We want to do basically a Welcoming Home to our Central Florida troops that died in the battle,” Guetzloe said. “They’re doing this right now in Tampa. They set up a line as a welcoming to the troops. Fortunately, we do not have very many casualties here in Orlando.”
Military writer Richard S. Lowry, author of the book “NEW DAWN: The Battlee for Falluja,” said these homecomings provide a boost to the morale of the returning soliders.
“I think they do,” said Lowry, who is 62 years old.
“I’m of the age where I was in the military service during the Vietnam War,” he said. “We were treated very badly by the general public. We were told we shouldn’t wear our uniforms back then. These men and women coming home are wearing the uniforms to protect us.”
The homecomings, he said, are “quite helpful” to the soldiers.
“What they truly want to see — and the people they want to be with — is their family,” Lowry said. “To have a group of people in the background has got to be uplifting to them.”
Still, he added that not enough communities set up networks to draw strong crowds for a military homecoming.
“Here in Orlando, we do a very poor job of greeting returning troops,” Lowry said. “There is an organization in Dallas, Texas that meets nearly every airplane that has troops on it.”
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