The buses pulled in the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum amidst cheers and tears. It was a cold Tuesday morning, May 2, 2005. As the soldiers walked out of the bus onto the coliseum parking lot, each looking for their families, friends and loved ones for a reunion after their 12-month deployment in Afghanistan. There were flags, banners and welcome home signs, but most of all there were real people in the parking lot. People the soldiers from the 221st Ordance Company could grab onto and hug.
I asked First Sergeant Peter Doke what happens next. “I will stay active in the 221st at our home base just off of Brooklyn Avenue. I could opt out anytime but I expect to stay with my unit at least a few more years, maybe even longer depending on the situation.”
Glenna Doke, Peter’s wife of 18 years, stood close by as did his 14 year old daughter Hollie and his brothers, Dan, Paul and Marty.
A wet snow flurry dampened the crowd and then the snow was gone as fast as it had appeared.
The men regrouped into a standing formation closer to the coliseum doors and listened as Representative Tom Wyss welcomed them home on behalf of Governor Mitch Daniels. Allen County Commissioner Linda Bloom also welcomed the troops and Mayor Graham Richard read a proclamation thanking them for their bravery and sacrifice on our behalf.
Then the soldiers broke ranks to be with their families again and start readjusting to life in Fort Wayne.
Cannon fire erupted in the background as Jack Gaby from Kendalville fired Civil War cannons to welcome home his son, Chief Warrant Officer Tim Gaby.