A soldier’s homecoming
Whiteway native on leave from Afghanistan given spirited welcome.
Whiteway, Trinity Bay - Alex George’s young eyes nearly bulged out of his head last week when he glimpsed his father for the first time in three months.
The seven-year-old let out a joyous yell as he leapt into his father’s arms and tightened his growing arms around his neck.
It was the beginning of a long-awaited and emotional reunion for M/Cpl. Eddie George, Alex’s dad, and his family and friends.
“It’s the greatest feeling in the world. I missed him so much when I was over there,” Eddie said later.
“It’s the longest period of time I’ve ever spent away from him.”
Eddie is a communications specialists with the Canadian Forces and has been living and working on a remote base in a mountainous area of Afghanistan. He received a hero’s welcome when he returned to his hometown on July 13 to begin a three-week mid-deployment vacation.
A motorcade of several dozen vehicles paraded from Eddie’s family home to the Whiteway Memorial Centre, where more than 100 citizens turned out to shake hands with Eddie and honour his presence.
There was soup and sandwiches and plenty of smiles to go around, but few were happier than Eddie’s wife, Juanita (Reid), who is from Dildo South. It was the couple’s eightyear anniversary, and she was visibly moved by the arrival of her favourite soldier.
Their first hug in many weeks lasted for nearly a minute, and the tears were streaming down their cheeks. Eddie’s mother, Mary, also fought back tears as she squeezed her oldest son. Eddie’s brother, Wayne, is working in Alberta and couldn’t make it home for the reunion.
Eddie was humbled by the outpouring of support, but wasn’t surprised.
“I would expect it from this community. It’s always been a place where everybody was friends. I guess with me being over there, people are thinking about me and it makes you feel pretty good about yourself when you come and see this kind of thing.”
Wayne George, Eddie’s father, picked him up at St. John’s Airport late in the afternoon.
They spoke about Eddie’s service in the war-torn country during the hour-long drive to Whiteway.
“He’s very proud of what he’s doing,” said Wayne.
But the mission is sensitive and Eddie is reluctant to go into detail. He said the country is “ very hot,” and that he’s stationed in a “relatively safe” part of Afghanistan. He said the comradeship among his fellow soldiers is very high, and supplies and food are readily available.
His job is to ensure that communications among soldiers in the field and those at the bases are in top working order. He said the job can be challenging, but added, “I fill a really important role and I feel like I’m making a difference.”
He would not offer any comments about his thoughts on the mission, but stressed that packages from home are a “ big morale boost” to the soldiers.
Eddie said he hoped for a simple and relaxing vacation, and looked forward to trouting with his father and perhaps catching a few codfish when the recreational food fishery opens.
Eddie is stationed and lives in Petewawa, Ont., but there was no question about where he wanted to spend his leave.
“ This is home. Petewawa is just where I’m living right now. I’ve got a house there, but I call this home,” he said.
Seven-year-old Alex George holds a “ Welcome Home” poster at the roadside in Whiteway last week. He was awaiting the arrival of his dad, M/Cpl. Eddie George, who spent the last three months in Afghanistan. Craning her neck in the background is Alex’s mom, Juanita (right). Also in the background are, from left, brother-in-law Mark Reid, Aunt Linda Soper, Mary George (Eddie’s mother) and Uncle Steven Van Every.
Dozens of vehicles took part in a motorcade to help welcome M/Cpl. Eddie George home to Whiteway last week.
M/Cpl. Eddie George hugs his seven-year-old son Alex after being reunited in Whiteway last week. George is serving in Afghanistan with the Canadian Forces.
The George family, reunited after three months, reflect during a prayer at the community centre in Whiteway last week. M/Cpl. Eddie George has been serving in Afghanistan for the past three months and is home on a mid-deployment leave. He is shown with his son Alex and his wife Juanita.
Former soldier Todd Jackson (right) chats with M/Cpl. Eddie George and his wife, Juanita. Jackson served three tours in Afghanistan before leaving the forces.
Relative and neighbour Vivian George (right) prepares to hug M/Cpl. Eddie George during a reception in Whiteway last week. In the foreground is Eddie’s seven-year-old son Alex.