Servicemen back home for the holidays

December 16, 2011 (LYONS, Ill.)

The Village of Lyons is celebrating the return of a soldier who served in Iraq and another who is home from Afghanistan.

Private First Class Kurt Scapardine and Sergeant Jesse Lopez served a combined three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are now back home for the holidays.

Little did they know about the crowd waiting to welcome them back outside of Scapardine's home.

They were formally welcomed home by the city of Lyons and its residents. The heroes were whisked off to take part in a procession from Scapardine's home to the Lyons Village Hall, where hundreds waited to greet them and welcome them home, including the J. Sterling Morton West High School marching band.

"We as a community have missed these soldiers and are ever so grateful for their safe return," said Lyons Mayor Christopher Getty.

Scapardine, 29, has been in the Army for two years, half of that time spent in Iraq and Baghdad.

"It feels good to be back home," said Scapardine. "I really wasn't expecting anything like this, and this is definitely a big surprise."

Scapardine said seeing his family and eventually returning home was what kept him going.

"This is like the best present I could ask for, just having him home with his family," said mother Marilyn Scapardine.

The young soldier says he plans a career in the military.

These two young men answered the call of duty. They both did it with grace and with style. And they both said they would be willing to do it again because serving their country is important to them.

It took the Village of Lyons five days to prepare for the welcome home celebration.

Lopez, 25, spent 15 months in Iraq.

"You make really good friends in the military, so I don't regret any part of it," Lopez said.

Lopez said he has two years left in the military, with more training and possibly deployment again.

"After six years, it's the first time I've ever had something like this, so it's kind of cool," said Lopez.

"It's a surprise for him, wonderful as you see," said mother Soledad Lopez.

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