Despite a delay in their flight, local U.S. Marines from Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve returning home were greeted by hundreds of well-wishers along the Bayfront as they drove by.
Susan and Clark Easley set out a pair of large flags in preparation for the motorcade on Saturday.
As parents of Marine Lance Cpl. Todd Long, currently serving in Afghanistan, they know all too well the long wait loved ones face back home.
“He’s been there for six months. He’s supposed to come home next month, and once he’s stateside in Hawaii, we’re going to be there,” Clark Easley said, turning toward his wife. “It’s been very, very hard, espceially on mama.”
They came out from Padre Island four hours early to show their support along Shoreline with hundreds of other Corpus Christians. Most every night, the couple goes to a small outdoor church on the island. It serves as their own little refuge as they wait for their only child to come home, Susan Easley said.
“We go there to the church, almost every night to pray,” she said.
The Easleys said they expected more people to be out in support of the troops coming home, but it was nice to see those who took the time to wait for the Marines. Susan said Marines and their families are a close knit group.
Family members of Marines used this occasion to show their support for all Marines, both now here and those still abroad.
For Manuela Estell, Saturday was a time to honor not only local Marines but also her son, Lt. Col. Jerry Estell, who is currently stationed in Panama City, Fla.
“We just heard they were putting this together, and we wanted to be here to support our troops,” Estell said, with her two sisters, Linda Mihoin and Norma Lopez, by her side. She proudly waved a large Marine flag, while tightly clutching a wallet-sized photo of her son.
“We love the military. People don’t give them enough credit. We wouldn’t have this freedom now if not for them. Most people don’t realize how important this freedom we have in the U.S. is,” Estell said. “I want to thank them for doing a great job and keeping our country free.”
That was a sentiment shared by a majority of the crowd during the afternoon. That sense of pride and freedom was something even the youngest in the crowd understood.
Nathan Johnson said it was important for his kids to come out on Saturday. Dana, 6, Joni, 4, Waylon, 3 and Lora, 1, waved their own flags alongside their dad and mom, Angel Johnson, and were ready to cheer for the passing Marines. Too young to really understand what war is, Johnson said it was important for them to understand that these Marines sacrifice a lot for their country.
“We try to teach them, but they’re still very young,” Johnson said. “They understand the Marines are over there for us.”