Three friends who served in Iraq together are back in U.S.
After serving 12 months overseas in Baghdad, Iraq, Army National Guard Spc. Timothy K. Oxley of Bridgewater has learned not to take things for granted.
“It's an eye-opening experience. Everything that I used to take for granted, I appreciate now. We finished the job. We missed our families. It feels great to be home,” said Oxley, 20, who returned home this past Saturday.
“Both of my grandfathers were veterans. Joining the service was something I always wanted to do,” said Oxley.
Oxley, Spc. William M. Smith and Spc. Ryan M. Hennessy received a warm welcome home from about 180 family members and friends during a welcome-home celebration Tuesday night at the Bridgewater Vets Club on Cottage Street.
All three served together in Iraq and were discharged from the Army National Guard's 101st Field Artillery Unit on Saturday. All three are graduates of Bridgewater-Raynham High School and live in Bridgewater.
Food was donated by Castaway's Restaurant, Roche Bros. supermarket and Honey Dew Donuts. The Vets Club donated its hall, and the Bridgewater VFW contributed financially.
Smith said he was thankful for all of the support he received while he was deployed.
“It's a great feeling to be home. It's amazing, more so than words can describe on this paper. I've missed my family. They've done a lot for me. They've always been there for me. I want to thank my family, friends and the whole town of Bridgewater. They have all been so supportive,” said Smith, 20.
Smith said he joined the Army in an attempt to better his life.
“I wanted to do something good with my life. And I did. The Army has really changed my life. You get a new sense of respect for everything. You realize how great the U.S.A. really is when you get outside of it. You realize what you fight for and what a great country it is when you come back,” said Smith.
Smith said he is supportive of the troops still serving in Iraq.
“As a whole, the people in Iraq are good people and they want to help. You have a few select people who want to rebel. Personally, I think what we are doing is great and it's our responsibility to help out,” said Smith.
Patricia Bernier, Smith's mother, said she was happy her son returned home safely.
“It's absolutely wonderful, beyond words. It's another gift from God. You pray every day that your son is safe,” said Bernier, who said she helped organize the event.
Bernier said she and her husband, Peter, have owned Bernier's Store at 905 Plymouth St. in Bridgewater for the past 56 years.
“A lot of my customers from the store are here tonight to show their support. A lot of them have been there for me. They've donated to care packages for all three boys. My son wanted to say thank you to them in person. It's been an absolute beautiful roller coaster since he's been home,” said Bernier.
Hennessy said he is still trying to get used to being home.
“It's awesome being home. It's nice, but I'm still trying to get used to it. There were times when it was awful, but it wasn't all of the time. Sometimes it was relaxed. There are a lot of good people over there. It's a select few that you can't trust. I think we are doing a good thing,” said Hennessy, 21.
Hennessy said he wanted to thank everyone who showed support, especially St. Basil's Church, whose members sent many care packages while he was deployed.
“I think it's awesome that people would come and say their thanks. It's always good to see that. There are a lot of people against it,” said Hennessy.
All three soldiers wanted to thank their recruiter, Sgt. First Class George Haley of Bridgewater.