Spc. Brian Carroll thought no one outside his immediate family would be there for his delayed homecoming Monday night. What he found left him in stunned surprise.
Spc. Brian Carroll thought no one outside his immediate family would be there for his delayed homecoming Monday night.
What he found left him in stunned surprise.
"I expected to come home to nothing," Carroll said. "It's just incredible. I'm overwhelmed."
First, there was the limousine waiting to pick up him and his wife, Elyse, and two of their three young children when he arrived at John Glenn Columbus International Airport.
Then, there were the more than 15 police cruisers to give him and his family an escort back to his Sycamore Creek subdivision in Pickerington.
The police cars, with lights flashing and sirens wailing, led them down Fairfield Drive, which they found lined with more than 200 cheering residents. U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers, a Republican from Upper Arlington, and Pickerington Mayor Lee Gray were there to present commendations to Carroll. Stivers gave Carroll a flag that had flown in his honor over the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
Carroll, 34, had not been home since he shipped out with his Ohio Army National Guard's 1194th Engineer Company to Kuwait in October 2015.
He should have returned with the 150 members when the rest came back in August. But then he had another battle to fight: cancer.
Carroll was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer of the nasal cavity while overseas. He was flown in July to a military hospital in San Antonio, Texas, where he went through rounds of radiation and chemotherapy.
Pickerington residents Shannon Gilbert and Misty Reigle learned of the family's story and went to work, communicating on a Facebook site called "Pickerington Peeps." That morphed into a creative homecoming celebration, with restaurants, local businesses and police agencies coming onboard.
"People in Pickerington are so supportive," Reigle said.
Santa joined the Pickerington crowd Monday night with presents for the Carrolls and their children, Ahlyssa, 7, Paige, 4, and Talan, 9 months old.
Lt. Cameron Benedict and Sgt. First Class Joseph Osborn, from Carroll's unit, also were there. Osborn said Carroll is a "quiet, hardworking guy" who is dedicated to doing his job.
There were people from other wars, too. Blake Firestone, 47, who served in the first Gulf War in 1991, and Bob Taylor, 74, who served in the Vietnam War, came over from the Canal Winchester VFW Post 10523. Both said it was important to remember the personal sacrifice involved on Carroll's part.
Carroll was overwhelmed. His eyes glistened with tears as he got out of the limousine and saw the crowd.
"I am nobody special. I am just a guy who grew up in Ohio," he told the crowd. "I will never be able to repay all that people have done for me to help my family in my absence. It means a lot to me and my family. We're going to make it. We're going to be all right."