CORPUS CHRISTI – Seventy-four U.S. Marines from the Rio Grande Valley area were welcomed back to South Texas by a group of supporters at the Corpus Christi International Airport on Saturday.
The Marine reservists - from Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 23rd Marines - were greeted by about 50 members of the South Texas Patriot Guard Riders and other individuals from the Corpus Christi community as they made their way out of the airport on two charter buses.
Riders lined up along the entrance to the gate with American flags as the buses drove slowly by, some saluting the Marines, while others cheered and clapped in a show of support.
Eric Thomas, lead ride captain with the Patriot Guard Riders and a 30-year U.S. Navy veteran, said he was grateful to see the amount of support the Marines received on Saturday. Having seen the way soldiers were treated after returning home from the Vietnam War, Thomas said the country is not the same in the way it behaves towards soldiers, even those fighting in unpopular wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"I think the country, as a whole, learned from the mistakes made during the Vietnam War," he said. "It's not just the soldiers, but their families, who are sacrificing."
One family during the event held up a "We Support Our Troops" banner while the buses carrying the Marines, which was heading to Harlingen, drove by. Thomas said that mentality is something everyone should feel, even if they don't agree with the war.
"If the people have a problem with the war, take it up with the politicians," he said. "The military does what it is told, and those soldier are just following orders."