Wounded warrior receives surprising welcome home
July 29, 2011
Sgt. Anthony Knight, an infantryman with 5th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division here boarded a plane with his wife Renee and daughter, Addison.
They were heading back to Alaska. Knight had been released from the hospital at Fort Lewis, Wash. after receiving treatment from injuries sustained during his deployment to Afghanistan.
As the Knights exited the plane just past midnight at the Fairbanks International Airport, they were greeted at the plane by a few familiar faces including his commander, first sergeant and the squadron’s care team coordinator " a routine greeting party for service members returning home.
The three escorted the Knight family to the elevator and down to the terminal and baggage claim floor. When the elevator door opened to the baggage claim area, the unexpected happened. Nearly 50 people from Knight’s unit and local community had taken time out of their lives to show their support, greet Sgt. Knight at the airport and welcome him home.
Capt. Roger Dallman, 5th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, Rear Detachment Commander, gave most of the credit for this warm welcome to Lizz Beem, wife of Staff Sgt. Brian Beem and the 5-1st care team coordinator, and the rest of her team.
“At [3:00 pm] that day we found out when he was coming back”, Dallman said. “Lizz and her care team did most of the work.”
Beem felt it was important to show each and every Soldier, single or married, that they were part of the 5-1st family and that they were cared for.
“I knew there was a need,” Beem said. “My husband is a wounded warrior, now on his third deployment and we never had a homecoming.”
The unit’s Family Readiness Group, care team, members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and many others had come out to make sure that this hero had the welcome home every Soldier in the U.S. military deserves.
They came out to show support for Knight, his wife and daughter, for their own loved ones currently deployed and those who had served in the past.
The 5-1 has a saying they have adopted and made into their unit logo as well as their way of life: “M.S.H.,” which stands for “Make Stuff Happen” and they did just that.
When the members of the FRG and care team learned that one of their own was coming back from deployment early due to an injury, they jumped into action. With fewer than 8 hours to prepare, they contacted friends, family and other members of the local community they knew would like to help give their Soldier, their “family member,” a hero’s welcome.
“I would say there were 50 people there - at least”, said Cyndi Raugh, wife of Lt. Col. David Raugh and the 5-1 FRG Senior Advisor, “it was amazing.”
“These guys are going over there, and whenever they get hurt, they’re not going to be able to have the big moment at the AHA [administrative holding area] or at the gym that most have gone through [when they return home],” Raugh said.
“This is an opportunity to change something that really affected Lizz and her family,” Raugh said. “This is a great opportunity to let them know that they are part of the 5-1, that we are family and that we care about them.”
“I feel that this is more than just a unit,” said Raugh, “it’s like a family.”
Maria Sutherland, a Gold Star wife and care team member said she agreed with Raugh.
“We were never part of 5-1, my husband died when it was still [4th Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment].”
She said her and her son love how the 5-1 has incorporated them into their family.
She said “(My son) knows he has this great support system, and knows he doesn’t have to worry about me.”
And even thought the Knights had only been a part of the 5-1st family a short while, Mrs. Knight said, “It was really cool to see everyone there [at the airport].”
The Knights said they were grateful for the support and that this unit and FRG was one they felt really cared for the Soldiers.
Mrs. Knight said they also have an effective Facebook page that helps bring them closer together.
“If someone is going to the movies, they invite others; they have softball games, and potlucks on Fridays,” said Mrs. Knight. “This FRG has their stuff together.”
Knight said she would like to show the same kind of support to other returning Soldiers.
“We will definitely be there for anybody else that comes home, to return the favor,” she said.
After all was said and done and after everyone had gone home; with the satisfaction of the Knight’s knowing they were cared for and a part of the family; Beem settled down to write to her husband who is still deployed with the unit in Afghanistan.
Beem said she wrote “to thank him for making her a better person and tell him it was because of him she knew this had to be done.”
“Thank you Brian for your service,” she wrote. “Because of you, I was able to touch hearts tonight.”