After nine months in Afghanistan, 21 members of the Army 532d Port Management Team arrived with a motorcycle escort to a receiving line of veterans and family members with American flags at the Veterans of Foreign War Post in Avon on Saturday.
The woman and 20 men returned to the United States two weeks ago, and spent a week demobilizing at Camp Shelby in Mississippi. They had already seen their families, said First Lieutenant Scott Spencer of Norwood, but had not gotten a big homecoming in Massachusetts.
Spencer’s wife, Emily , part of the Family Readiness Group charged with helping unit members’ loved ones at home during deployment, started planning the homecoming last March, just after the 532d left for training.
On Saturday, while she waited for the unit to arrive at the VFW post, Emily Spencer said she stood in the middle of the receiving line, looking at veterans’ commemorative jackets and American flags.
“It was awe-inspiring, it was so moving. And to be able to have created the level of respect and admiration for these guys after the year that they have had, it was very special,” she said in a phone interview Saturday. During its deployment in Kandahar Airfield and Camp Leatherneck, the unit was part of the retrograde mission, helping get US equipment out of Afghanistan, Scott Spencer said.
Meeting other veterans, especially from the Vietnam War, underscored how important it was to have support at home, Scott Spencer said.
“Having a welcoming, coming back to a country that we know wants us,” he said in a phone interview. “It wasn’t really shown that way in other wars. Over the last couple decades we’ve really changed that in our country.”
During Scott’s time in Afghanistan, Emily started a Christmas card drive that turned into a project called Heartillery Group, through which people can send cards to deployed American soldiers around the world.
“When my families were really having a tough time, it was nice for them to be able to put cards together and know that their loved ones were getting love and getting cards from 24 states — from all over the United States,” Emily Spencer said. “It’s all about love. And after all these men and women do for us, it’s the least I can do to make sure they know this country appreciates all they do for us.”
Emily Spencer said it was a relief to have her husband back, but the couple’s Weimaraner, Dave, is still getting used to him being around, Scott Spencer said.
“When I put on my uniform to leave this morning my dog started getting really nervous, and it occurred to me that he thinks I’m leaving again,” he said.