Marine Cpl. Bobby Permer noticed one thing out of the ordinary on Sunday morning while attending services at Village Church of Gurnee: His sister, Jessica, was carrying a camcorder.
Fortunately, he was not in position to see the 20 Patriot Guard motorcycles lining up out in front, along with the color guard from the Marine Corps League Lake County Detachment 801. And Jessica was ready with an explanation for the camcorder.
“She told me an old friend of the family was outside, and she wanted to get some video,” said Permer, adding that he was completely surprised by the crowd that gathered to celebrate his return from his second deployment in Afghanistan.
“Welcome home, corporal,” said Marine Corps League member John Pickelman. “Job well done.”
Permer actually returned to the United States the day before Thanksgiving, but the 2008 Lakes High School graduate did not make it back to the Midwest until Friday, when a small gathering of friends and family greeted him at Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee.
Permer was just one of many area soldiers being welcomed back home.
From Afghanistan to Okinawa to Tokyo to O’Hare Airport, Marine Sgt. Ryan Lehman made his way back home to Beach Park one step at a time, and the final leg was completed Sunday with a trip up the Tri-State Tollway from Joliet. His mother, Susan joined dozens of Chicago-area Marine families welcoming their loved ones home from deployment in Afghanistan.
“We all met at the Joliet Community Center at about 8 o’clock in the morning, and (the returning Marines) were delayed a little bit so we waited in the gym and got to meet some of the other families. It was really nice,” Susan Lehman said Sunday afternoon.
Ryan Lehman joined the Marine Corps Reserves shortly after graduating from Zion-Benton High School in 2006.
In Gurnee, Permer’s stepfather, Jerry Roark, said their large reception had been in the works for much of the past month.
“This is a surprise to him,” said Patriot Guard member Bob Clement as he prepped the riders around 10 a.m. “Make all the noise you want — this is a welcome home.”
Permer walked outside the church to applause and the rumble of Harley-Davidsons. After exchanging handshakes and hugs with dozens of well-wishers, Permer joined a caravan of cars and motorcycles that headed north on Hunt Club Road and west on Stearns School Road toward his family’s home off Hastings Lake in Lindenhurst.