Soldiers welcomed back home
By Merja H. Lehtinen
East Hampton - posted Tue., Oct. 22, 2013
East Hampton is the kind of place where everyone knows your name. That warmth was especially evident toward returning soldiers on a beautiful, sunny Sunday, Oct. 20. Three soldiers returning from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Bahrain were welcomed home by friends, family, delegates from Congress, the legislature, town, military color guards, and civic organizations who joined in a special ceremony. The joy of the three soldiers lucky enough to cut their own yellow ribbons down from the tree in the center of town was shared by all. The community, by its massive presence said, “thank you.”
But time after time, U.S. Army Specialist Matthew Kelly, U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Alicia Valli, and Master Sergeant Paul Valvo – in addition to Major Gilman who formally welcomed the soldiers – kept putting the grateful words back to the community.
“It is all about you,” said Kelly. The soldiers were unanimous that their families and friends and people in the community were why they chose to serve, to preserve the way of life and peace enjoyed at home.
Major Gilman, who attended East Hampton High School, said there “is no better military ceremony than a welcome home.”
Sgt. Valle, surrounded by her family and neighbors, echoed Gilman’s sentiment.
“Valle entered the Connecticut National Guard in 2002 while still a senior at East Hampton High School,” said McLaughlin. A flight engineer and helicopter mechanic, Valle was deployed to Mississippi, South Korea, Kuwait, and more recently Afghanistan.
Spc. Private Kelly was graduated from Norwich Technical School, then followed his two brothers into the military. A member of the 246th Engineers Company of Norwich, he was most recently stationed in Bahrain.
Msg. Valvo is a long term member of the U.S. Army with more than 15 years of service. He has served throughout the United States as well as in South Korea, Germany, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
After the formal ceremony where state legislators presented commendations from the state of Connecticut, U.S. Congressman Joe Courtney said it was a “truly warm and special community,” and marveled at the congenial townspeople who come out to support each and every soldier returning home.
It was a beautiful day that celebrated a poignant homecoming for a few. Other yellow ribbons remain tightly wrapped around the oak tree on Main Street.