U.S. Marine Cpl. Bobby Owens, who landed Thursday at Chicago's Midway Airport, was officially welcomed home Saturday with a parade of friends and an escort from the police and the New Lenox Fire Protection District. The entourage gathered about 4 p.m. in a parking lot at Route 6 and Briggs Street in Joliet and parade snaked a few miles along Briggs Street, ending at the Belmont Athletic Club.
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The light rain was just enough to make 45 degree temperature uncomfortable for those awaiting the arrival of the guest of honor. Frankfort's John Cap, who regularly comes out to welcome military personnel back home, said, "A Marine comes home—there's no better way to spend your day. What these boys and girls do out on the line, standing in the rain is a small price to pay."
New Lenox's "Wild" Bill Welch, a member of the Joliet Marine Corps League, "They eat and sleep in the rain."
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Owens, 21, who is a 2010 graduate of Lincoln-Way Central High School, arrived about 20 minutes early for his parade. Dressed in his formal uniform, he stepped out his car to a crowd of cheering fans from the Soldiers' Guardian Angels, Warrior Watch Riders and more supporters. His family and friends were awaiting his arrival at the Belmont Athletic Club, 651 Highland Parkway, where a party was planned. Having spent six months fighting at Trek-Nawa in Helmand Province in Afghanistan, he said, "It feels good to be back home. I was only supposed to be there for three months, but then it got extended for another three."
This was Owens' third overseas deployment since joining the U.S. Marines in 2010; he was deployed twice to the Middle East.
Americans are still fighting a real war
"The war is still very real. There's a lot going on. I just want people to understand. People are fighting over there," he said.
When the parade reached the Club, Owens was greeted by a flag line of family and friends. In the line stood Mayor Tim Baldermann, who later told the crowd how proud he was of Owens. "We're very grateful for your service. We're grateful to your family (and other families). Without their support, it would be so much more difficult on the soldiers."
Standing before the group, Owens said he accepts the honors tonight on behalf of those who are "still fighting there and those who didn't make it home."
His mother, Jackie Owens, said, "The Marines have paid the price, and we're praying for the rest of our warriors."
Reflecting on her son's decision to join the Corps, she said in a statement, "He graduated from Lincoln-Way Central six months early because he was eager to begin his as a Marine. Scoring in the high 90s on his ASVAB, Bobby could have chosen any job he wanted within the Marines. He chose Infantry because he wanted to be a 'grunt' and fight terrorism hands on."
Owens, who has a year left in the Corps, is on a 30-day leave. After Christmas, he'll be returning to Camp Pendleton, CA, and joining with his Unit 1/1 Weapons Company 81st Platoon.
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