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They have their son back: Cherry Hill family welcomes home Airman First Class Brandon Goldstein


There’s no better feeling in the world for a mother than to see all of her children happy, smiling, and most importantly — all together in one room.

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That’s what Beth Goldstein said Sunday, the first day she was able to experience that feeling in about 19 months. It was the day the family of six welcomed home their youngest son, and baby brother, who is now on leave from Iraq.

“It’s amazing to have him here,” Beth said. “There are just no words for it.”

Thanks to the Yellow Ribbon Club, Airman First Class Brandon Goldstein rode up Anders Drive to his family — parents Beth and Jeff, along with Nicole, Justin and Jared — on the back of a Warriors’ Watch Riders motorcycle. Led by a Cherry Hill Police car, the motorcade of bikes passed several Cherry Hill Fire Department trucks, sirens blaring, and dozens of family, friends and neighbors shouting and proudly waving American flags.

“Everyone should come home and see something like this,” the 21-year-old said in utter amazement, later saying it was one of the craziest things he’s ever seen in Cherry Hill and he couldn’t believe he was at the middle of it.

Brandon, a 2008 graduate of Cherry Hill High School East, left home just after Christmas in 2009 for training and was deployed with the Air Force soon after, where he worked in aircraft armament for F-16s in Iraq. He can’t say much about where he was or where he’s going next after his time on leave, which will only last a couple of weeks. But he will most likely be deployed again.

Fortunately, if he ever wondered what type of support he had back at home, it’s perfectly clear now and that feeling of encouragement and patriotism is something he can carry with him.

“We’re here to welcome home a hero in Brandon Goldstein,” said David Silver, a member of the Yellow Ribbon Club. “The beauty of being an American is we’re provided a freedom, and we know that freedom is not free. We get to exercise that freedom today to be here and welcome you home.

“Airman First Class Brandon Goldstein, all of these people are here for one reason — because of you,” Silver said, adding he felt the lyrics to one of his favorite songs was very appropriate for the occasion.

“You better say it now too loud than too late,” he said. “We’re here today to do that right now. Thank you for your service. Thank you for your dedication to our country. Welcome home Brandon.”

The whole block immediately erupted in applause, and with the official ceremony over, people began pushing through the crowd to hug Brandon, see his face, and shed some tears as they saw him up close for the first time.

When the fire trucks left Anders Drive and the rumble of motorcycle engines faded into the distance, the crowd came off the street and filed into the Goldstein home, where signs of Brandon’s service seemed to adorn every room — from the formal portrait of him in his Air Force uniform in the grand foyer that greeted guests as soon as they entered to his photos on the mantle above the fireplace in the family room.

As she continuously circled around the house as the day’s hostess to make sure all of her family and friends were taken care of, Beth continued to feel shocked every time she turned a corner and saw her son.

“I keep seeing him and I’m like ‘Ahh! He’s here!’” she said gleefully, trying to ignore the fact that his time at home will be short.

“He’s the youngest of four children; he’s my baby,” she said, adding that’s why when she first heard he was going to join the military at age 19, she said, “No way. That’s not going to happen.”

As his father Jeff said, no parent wants to see his or her child put in harm’s way. But Brandon wanted to give back to his country, so they soon supported him 100 percent.

Beth said Brandon wanted to serve his country but not without his mother’s blessing. So after spending some time talking to a recruiter, who was also a psychologist, Beth reluctantly agreed to cut the strings.

“I accepted it,” she said. “I saw his passion. He said after 9/11, he felt he needed to do something for his country.”

She said there were a lot of tears beforehand — and admittedly a little foot stomping — but once her son left, she never let him know how hard it was on the family because that was the last thing that she wanted him to think about while in Iraq. They talked often thanks to Facebook, e-mail and Skype, and she said modern technology was really what helped the whole family get through it.

Through Skype, she couldn’t see his face because the visual transmission was never clear, but she heard his voice and knew he was safe.

There were times, though, when Brandon would tell his mother that he was being shot at and he had to go. He’d come back and continue the conversation like normal, she said. Her nerves would be nearly destroyed, but at least she knew he was OK.

“I will never get used to it,” she said. “But it’s what you have to do to get through it. You bide your time.”

Brandon has another six years to go in the Air Force. He’s already missed two birthdays with his family, including his 21st.

The hardships that come along with being away from home along with living in a warzone are both things he said he just can’t dwell on.

“You just gotta do what you gotta do,” he said. “Every day in Iraq is one less day until you get back home.”


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