When Lieutenant Stephanie Rees returned home from her deployment in Afghanistan on the evening of August 2, she was expecting a quiet trip home to Collegeville with her parents and her boyfriend, Lt. Joshua Worth, who returned from deployment with her.
Instead, scores of veterans, emergency services personnel and citizens were waiting to welcome them.
“I am so surprised,” Rees said, with Worth, her parents, Jill and Rod, and her dog, Lilly, by her side. “I was just expecting my parents to take me to dinner!”
Rees, a company executive officer and maintenance platoon leader for the 233rd Transportation Company, and Worth, a seven-year Army veteran who was awarded a Bronze Star for his service in Iraq with the 3rd Infantry Division (MECH), were escorted from the airport to the Providence Town Center by more than 30 veterans on motorcycles, who were members of Warrior’s Watch -- a national troop support group.
When Rees, Worth, and family members arrived at the Upper Providence shopping center, they were met with sirens and bright lights from Collegeville and Upper Providence Police, as well as Collegeville, Perkiomen, Trappe and Black Rock Fire Companies.
Rees and Worth were then escorted to her home in Collegeville with the cavalcade, taking in the view – including many Collegeville residents lined up on the streets to greet them - from Rees’s grandfather’s Army duck boat.
Collegeville Police Sgt. Bruce Penuel, who welcomed his own daughter home from Iraq in a similar fashion in 2011, helped to coordinate the effort with Collegeville Fire Chief Jay Murphy.
“It’s a team effort, believe me,” said Penuel, who worked to gather volunteers from the Perkiomen Valley area for the 2 mile trek.
Rees, a 2005 Perkiomen Valley High School graduate, addressed the crowd at her home in Collegeville and thanked all of the veterans who were there, particularly those who weren’t afforded the same welcome when they returned from service.
“When we got back from ‘Nam, we had to sneak back in,” said Dave Minnich, a Rees family friend. “It’s great to see these kids get this kind of welcome.”
Rees will spend a 30-day leave at home with her family before heading to Georgia where she will be stationed with Worth.
“After a tour in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s great to have her back,” said her grandfather, James Rees.
A Hero’s Welcome is looking for volunteers to join them in welcoming home veterans. Please visit the organization’s website at http://aheros-welcome.org/. The website for Warrior’s Watch is www.warriorswatch.org/.