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‘Raiders Return’ celebration welcomes back Stryker brigade

Published: 04:20PM September 17th, 2013

Pfc. Reese Von Rogatsz

4th Bde., 2nd Inf. Div. Soldiers march through Lakewood, Wash., Sunday in the community's welcome home ceremony from Afghanistan for the Raiders. Lakewood and the Stryker brigade are Community Connections partners.

Soldiers from 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, took center stage as they marched in a parade and then joined residents and community members of the city of Lakewood, Wash., during a “Raiders Return” celebration, Sunday.

Approximately 2,000 Soldiers and the brigade’s variants of the Stryker, the unit’s signature vehicle, marched from Lakewood Police Department to City Hall under gray skies that stopped raining minutes before the start of the parade.

This did not dampen the enthusiasm and outpouring of support from those gathered to welcome home the Raider Brigade from its nine-month deployment providing security force assistance to Afghan National Security Forces.

“To the citizens of Lakewood: your presence, your cheers, your applause, your shouts of joy, thumbs-up and high-fives along this parade route were visible reminders of the thoughts and the prayers that you bestowed upon us while we were deployed to Afghanistan,” said Col. Michael Getchell, 4th Bde., 2nd Inf. Div. commander.

Lakewood is partnered with 4th Bde., 2nd Inf. Div. in JBLM’s community connector program, which links municipalities and specific military units to encourage mutual support. The relationship grew close in 2007 when the unit first deployed to Iraq. Community members sent care packages, hosted holiday events, checked in on Soldiers’ families and provided comfort kits for Soldiers in their barracks upon redeployment.

“Welcome home, Raiders!” said Mayor Don Anderson during the ceremony following the parade, addressing Soldiers standing in formation at Lakewood Towne Center along with members of the community, family, friends and distinguished guests gathered for the event.

“It takes a rare person to go toward danger for the safety and freedom of total strangers. Those rare people are standing before us en masse. The city of Lakewood salutes you and welcomes you home, thanks you for your service, and wants you to know that no matter where your journeys take you, you will always have a home here [and] will always have a place in our hearts,” Anderson said.

According to U.S. Congressman Dennis Heck, first member of Washington’s newly created 10th Congressional District of the United States House of Representatives, “You simply cannot understand the gravity of departure until you can fully appreciate the joy of the return.” He spoke from personal experience, having watched his older brother depart for Vietnam decades ago.

“You are deeply appreciated by millions of Americans for your service and your sacrifices. Our nation is safer, the world is better because of you. Your country is deeply grateful,” Heck said.

After the parade, the city hosted a community festival at Fort Steilacoom Park, Lakewood, Wash. Local businesses provided food and refreshments, live music, and numerous activities for the young and old.

“Today is a day to celebrate, today is a day to remember and today is a day to say ‘thank you’,” Heck said. “Today is a day to say ‘welcome home’.”