Friends, family welcome soldier home

March 9, 2009 4:53:27 PM PDT
A west suburban town turned out on Monday to welcome back one of their own. Sergeant Kevin Schafer has served two tours of duty in Iraq.

Family, friends and neighbors let him know they were glad to have him back.

It was all a big surprise to the 23-year-old soldier. He and his family were inside quietly celebrating on Monday evening. But earlier the entire street was lined with yellow ribbons and with people too, all to welcome Kevin back.

Friends and well-wishers started gathering in a parking lot on the edge of town. Dozens of bikers, part of the Patriot Guard, along with friends and family were determined to give a warm welcome home to a Batavia soldier.

"This is to show Kevin the honor and appreciation he deserves," said Al Conradt. Patriot Guard.

Then, right on schedule, Sgt. Kevin Schafer pulled into the lot in his parents' minivan.

It's a long way from Iraq in many ways and the soldier who served two tours there is glad to be home. But there is plenty more. The Patriot Guard was there to lead Kevin home in style.

Waiting on his street, many more friends and neighbors and others wanted to show his support. Kevin grew up in Batavia and they are glad he is back safe.

"This is so incredible. This is so intense. You have no idea. Plus, you know, I know you guys do this for everybody, all the soldiers out there, and I'm just one of the soldiers from Batavia but this is for all of them," said Sgt. Kevin Schafer, U.S. Army.

"Just extremely grateful to have him home and know that he's healthy. He spent his 15 months in Iraq, did his duty, he served his country and now he's home in one piece. It's good to see that," said Kathy Schafer, mother.

Nancy Gongaware organized the neighborhood effort. She has known Kevin more than 16 years and followed his progress in Iraq where he received commendations for capturing a major Hezbollah leader. He was also injured by a grenade. But he's home now and Batavia is grateful.

"It's very overwhelming. It's huge. It's special," said Gongaware. "We very proud of him. We absolutely are."

Kevin's back home for 30 days before he heads to Fort Carson Colorado.