To the blare of sirens and the rumble of motorcycles, Mount Laurel welcomed home a decorated soldier.
Major Brian Fitzgerald, who has spent the last two years in Afghanistan, said he was overwhelmed by the event outside his home, which was put together by the Yellow Ribbon Club, Warrior Watch Riders, and the Mount Laurel Fire Department.
“These groups are wonderful,” Fitzgerald said. “They really help the morale.”
The major, who has been in the army since 1981, said he will go back to work in the computer industry and help with the Army Reserve.
Brian’s wife of 37 years, Linda Fitzgerald, said she was also overwhelmed by the turnout.
“It’s phenomenal,” she said. “I never expected this.”
Linda said it was difficult while her husband was away. They have four children and eight grandchildren.
“But you do what you’ve got to do,” she said, noting Brian had retired and reenlisted to go to Afghanistan. “He’s one of the bravest guys I know.”
Major Fitzgerald has earned many awards and medals including: Army Commendation Medal with Two Clusters, Army Infantry Blue Cord, Expert Hand Grenade and Pistol Badge, Rifle Sharpshooter Badge, Mortar Marksmanship Badge, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, Defense Service Ribbon. He also received a few more on this deployment which include a Bronze Star for Customs Program Management, NATO Afghanistan Service Medal, and NATO Base Afghanistan Campaign Medal.
Dave Silver, a volunteer with the Yellow Ribbon Club, said his group sends CARE packages to soldiers, including Major Fitzgerald.
“We’re just so excited to have him here at home safe,” Silver said.
Leslie Drummond, who founded the Yellow Ribbon Club in 2005, said the group not only supports troops while overseas but also welcomes them home.
“It’s a lot for the family as well because, being a family member myself at one time, you don’t know if you’re going to get that horrible visitor to deliver bad news so when the day comes that they’re coming home safely there’s reason to celebrate and reason to make a lot of noise,” Drummond said.
Mount Laurel Mayor Jim Keenan was also on hand to deliver a commendation from the township.
“It’s a fantastic thing because we appreciate their service to the country,” Keenan said. “Major Fitzgerald is one of those outstanding citizens of the United States.”
Brian said the reporting by the media of the efforts in Afghanistan is wrong.
“We have tremendously taken over a great area of that country without a great deal of bloodshed because we have an army that has operated with such discipline that they can go into an area without firing their weapons and take it over in a very peaceful manner,” he said. “The average young man and woman in uniform today are serving very proudly and yet like the predecessors of a previous era, they oftentimes feel as if the American press has abandoned them.”