The Port Arthur News
Complete strangers left their homes, places of work and school and spent more than a hour outside waiting to welcome home a hero on Friday.
U.S. Marine Sgt. Joshua Yarbrough, 26, returned home after recuperating from injuries he received while in Afghanistan and was greeted to a parade and well wishers.
Korean War veteran Gerald Leblanc, 80, of Port Arthur, was one of many who came out to show his support. Leblanc sat on the tailgate of his truck in the parking lot of St. Charles Catholic Church in Nederland where he recalled his time in the military stationed overseas and the hardships he endured. As he spoke, a small American flag attached to his truck waved in the wind.
Kenneth Marze, a Vietnam veteran, didn’t receive fanfare when he returned home. Instead he was spit upon, he said.
“We’re out her to show our support for a military person coming home from Afghanistan and let him know we care and thank him, Marze said.
Phyllis Johnson, Rachel Johnson and Michelle Duprie were also on hand to welcome the hero home. Phyllis’ son, Aaron, is in the U.S. Army and is stationed at Arlington National Cemetery where he escorts the families of fallen soldiers.
“These signs are from when my son came home from boot camp,” the proud mother said of the welcome home signs that said ‘proud parent, proud wife, proud family of a U.S. soldier.’ The family also had with them the Army flag, American flag and Texas flag.
Carleen Minaldi and Charlotte Shark stood near a group of children from the church’s Mother’s Day Out program.
“We want the little ones to experience this and know what he’s done for our country,” Stark said of the children near her. “Once you’ve had a family member in the military you never forget. When you experience it as a mother, you take each one of them (soldiers) as your own.”
Natalie Picazo and her aunt and uncle Alice and Claud Sibert grabbed lawn chairs and set up outside Picazo’s near the 700 block of 27th Street. Picazo left work early in order to show her respects to the hero.
“I read about it in the paper and came out to honor him,” she said.
The parade route ended at the home of Yarbrough’s uncle, Wayne Colicher. The Marine, seated in a wheelchair, was surrounded by his wife, Rachel and children Sean, 6, and Patrick, 4 months. Members of the Patriot Guard, law enforcement, fire department, city officials and others encircled the family where they thanked him for his service.
Sanda Womack, Patriot Guard captain, choked back tears as she spoke to Yarbrough and the crowd.
“I can’t say thank you enough to everybody who came out,” Womack said. “We do so many funerals and today is a happy day to cry.”
Yarbrough’s mother, Ruth Trahan, had hoped to surprise her son with the parade and outpouring of support but word somehow leaked out. The Marine was still somewhat surprised when greeted by the riders and was very grateful as well.
Yarbrough was in the process of helping other injured Marines when he was injured. On June 15, 2011 while on patrol one of the Marines in his squad stepped on an improvised explosive device. After pulled the fellow Marine out of the canal and performing life saving first aid on him, he went to help another wounded Marine when he stepped on an IED, resulting in the loss of both legs and his right index finger.
Yarbrough underwent two months of surgery in Maryland before being flown to a hospital in San Antonio to begin rehabilitation. He often doubled or tripled his rehab time, he said.
The Marine doesn’t consider himself a hero, he said.
“I don’t feel like a hero. I was in a situation to do something heroic and hopefully anybody else would have done the same for me,” Yarbrough said. “No ... I don’t feel like a hero.”