The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

SFC Gary Jackson's Surprise Trip Home

by Shana Jackson, The Quill

What a warm homecoming for SFC Gary Jackson of La Harpe. Gary, my husband, had just arrived home at Ft. Riley, KS after serving his country in Iraq. As I told in last week's Quill, I and my daughter Kayla and mother Kay Olson were at Ft. Riley to greet him on the 24th. Now we had a surprise for him. At 7:00 a.m. October 28th, the three of us were ready to bring Gary home. We left Ft. Riley, Kansas to head back to Illinois.

We were not suppose to be leaving until 8:30 a.m. and were an 1 1/2 ahead of schedule for what had been secretly planned for him.

We were heading to Lewistown, MO to see Gary's Uncle Lyle "Chuck" Link and his Aunt Eileen. Aunt Eileen had arranged the Patriot Guard to be there and a few La Harpe people to come down on their motorcycles to meet us and bring us into Lewistown.

Thinking that we wouldn't be getting there until around 2:00 p.m., we had to come up with excuses to stop and waste some time. Eileen said to call when we reached Cameron and Lyle would take off shortly to meet us in Shelbina, MO.

She said Lyle could run a little late so that it would help on our time situation. So, I made the excuse that I needed to stop at Wal-Mart and also take a restroom break. That only took up about 45 minutes and it was back on the road.

We got into Shelbina and stopped at Casey's to wait on Lyle to show up. About 10 to 15 minutes later, here he came pulling up on his motorcycle.

We visited for a little while and Gary, at this point was wondering why we can't get going and visit once we get to Lyle's new place of business.

What he didn't know was that we still were trying to waste time. Lyle went to check his phone and made a phone call and we stood and waited and waited. Finally, it was time to head out.

We arrived at Newark and Lyle pulled over at the park. He said someone was coming that we had to wait for. So, it was a little more visiting, and more picture taking.

Finally, we could hear a roar of motorcycles and to Gary's surprise, it was Roger and Marilyn Jackson, Jim and Jeanette Ford, Larry Detherage, Bob Jackson, Savannah Jackson, Steve Clover, Marvin Gittings. Mary (Link) Hurlburt, Nina (Link) Boyer from Carthage, and Rex and Cheryl Link from Iowa City.

After a little visiting they led us into Lewistown where the Patriot Guard were all at Lyle's place waiting on us. Another surprise!

We all had a wonderful time visiting and then it was time to head on to Carthage.

As we left, Gary asked me "Now, there isn't anything else is there, or any more stops that I should know about?"

I said "No, not unless it's at Casey's for a bathroom break."

As we arrived in Carthage there were more Patriot Guard and familiar faces waiting on us. We pulled into Casey's and were greeted by Philip McDowell and Alison DeSotel and girls. They got their handshakes and hugs in and a few more pictures and then it was on to La Harpe.

As far as Gary knows, we are headed to the Annex for Josh Palmer's Memorial Fund ceremony. At this point he is in total shock and can't believe I knew about all of this.

I told him that he was a hard one to keep on track for time.

The Patriot Guard and family and friends on their bikes led us out of Carthage and headed for La Harpe. As we got close to Ferguson's corner on the highway, Gary spots two fire trucks waiting on us.

He is completely in shock and said that he doesn't deserve any of this.

We all believe that anyone who serves in the military certainly deserves all of this and more.

Carol Palmer who had lost her son Josh in the beginning of the war on Iraq, had a hand in arranging the welcome home for SFC Gary Jackson.

As we approached La Harpe at 6:00 p.m. it was an awesome sight to see. People had lined up from Clover's Tire all the way to the Annex and the tornado sirens were going off!

I'm sure, and we were told later, there were people looking out their doors to the sky wondering what was going on and if they needed to head to the basement. We told them no, it was just one of their favorite sons rolling into town and being welcome home from Iraq.

At the Annex, there where more hugs and pictures. At 6:30 p.m. we all went inside to join the Palmers for the giving of the money from the Veterans Memorial Ride.

Mike and Carol Palmers were given an Honor and Remembrance Flag from David, Susan, and Travis Hobby in honor of their son.

The James Family and DeWitt Family were recognized that evening who also lost sons. After visiting for a little while, it was finally time to head home.

What a great day it was and what a great patriotic and caring community we live in.