TYLER, TX (KLTV) - By Jamey Boyum - email
TYLER, TX (KLTV) - After a year in Iraq, Specialist James Collins is coming back. Family and more friends than he knew he had, gathered at Tyler Pounds Field Airport to give him a hero's hello. The welcoming committee also became an unexpected goodbye party.
The Welcome Home Soldiers Group seems to add members every time one of the troops comes back. They want to make sure the military members know East Texans are thinking about them. Specialist James Collins didn't make them wait long.
It was a welcome he didn't expect.
"My mom told me there was going to be some people here but I wasn't expecting this many people," he said.
There were a couple in the flag line in uniform and everyone quickly found out they were on their way out. Tommy Frennier is going back to Afghanistan for one more six-month tour of duty on the heels of his father who is the sergeant-major in charge training Iraqi forces on the other side of the pond. He could not believe the crowd, either.
"I imagined coming to the airport and leaving...so this is a pretty good thing they're doing," said Tommy.
"I'm very surprised to see these people," added Carol Frennier, Tommy's mother. "It's awesome. I'm used to being in a military community so this to me is really awesome to see civilians come out and support our soldiers."
Nearby, Specialist Randa Polk awaited a flight to start the first leg of a journey to Afghanistan for a year-long deployment.
Her mother stayed by her side. "She's never been away from home that long. I'm going to miss her. That's my baby. I think its wonderful. I'll have to try to find out how to become a part of it. It's a wonderful thing. It's encouragement and support. It's a good thing."
After Collins' 28-day leave, he ships out to Hawaii for three years. Tommy Frennier serves six months, then returns to El Paso. Randa Polk will be in Afghanistan just over 370 days before she sees home again.