LONDON, Ky. (WYMT) - One Marine from London said he was "surprised and humbled" to have members of the Kentucky Patriot Guard Riders escort him home from Lexington after he returned from Afghanistan.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Steven Sparkman said he did not expect the Kentucky Patriot Guard Riders to be waiting on him at Bluegrass Airport with his family.
He said he knew something was different when he attempted to take the stairs as usual, when a T.S.A. worker swayed him in the other direction.
“He said, you're going down the escalator, welcome home! So I went down and that's when I saw everyone standing there,” said Sparkman.
The Marine said he could not wait to get home to London to see his family and friends after being in Afghanistan since February.
Neighbors hosting a Vietnam Veterans get together called the “Dalat Group” waved flags at the end of the street to welcome him back.
“It’s very nice to get back to god's country here in Kentucky,” said Sparkman.
“It’s a lot better than Afghanistan or southern California.”
Sparkman said this was his fourth deployment and he had been a part of OIF1 and OIF2, Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The riders said they were glad to be a part of the happy homecoming and the family said they very much appreciate it.
“We are just really proud that they would take the time to do this, I think they were excited to have the opportunity to be part of something happy,” Debra said.
“It was a happy experience and it was just a happy day for everyone, not just for me, but for my children,” said his wife, Debra.
Because the riders typically accompany families at funerals where soldiers have been killed in action, Kentucky State Captain Danny Valentine said it was refreshing to be reminded of why they do it.
“Just the aura around here is so much better,” Valentine said.
“We need this to help get over what we do on the funeral side, this really helps heal.”
Sparkman and his family said they were honored.
“It’s very good to see that the American people are supporting troops coming home,” said Sparkman.
His mother said she “owed it all” to the troops.
“We are standing and talking freely here today only because of them,” said Barbara Sparkman.
The 45-year-old said it was nice to feel appreciated and “there's no place like home.”