By Lisa E. Crowley
BROCKTON—Sgt. Richard Joseph arrived at the Brockton Armory and as he made his way toward his family he encountered numerous obstacles—-loving land mines of comrades in arms and complete strangers who gave him hugs, handshakes and hearty congratulations for his return.
“It’s so good to be home,” Joseph (Pictured above with wife Julene) said as he separated from a jubilant kiss and hug from his wife Julene.
Joseph, 29, a Weymouth resident, was one of hundreds of Massachusetts U.S. Army soldiers who returned home from Afghanistan late Tuesday night in time for the holidays, and a day early.
The soldiers flew into Hanscom Air Force Base in Lincoln. Joseph said on the ride home the soldiers were escorted by police to the Brockton Armory on Montauk Road and as they passed an exit on the highway, Joseph said the Brockton Fire Department had an enormous American flag displayed as the soldiers drove by.
The party when they arrived at the armory was a complete surprise.
“This is unbelievable—no one expected this,” Joseph said as he smiled and pointed out the food, balloons, streamers and music played by a disc jockey provided by Keller Williams Realty in Easton and numerous other area restaurants and shops.
One of those Joseph received a hug from as he searched for his family in the packed armory was Kate Frost, a Hanson resident who works for Keller Williams.
She doesn’t know Joseph, but she had to hug him.
“I’m so proud of them,” Frost said, holding onto a miniature American flag similar to the ones that lined the outside roadway leading to the armory.
“I don’t know any of them, but I have to give them a hug and thank them,” Frost said.
Reaching his family, Joseph was surrounded by his mother Paulette, father Jean, and sister Rachel who handed him a cell phone so his other sister Sandra Menard could say hello.
“We are so happy he’s home,” said his mother Paulette Joseph, (Joseph family pictured above) a Stoughton resident.
“We’re going to celebrate and thank God—we thank God he’s home and we're going to celebrate,” she said, wiping a tear from her cheek with a tissue.
While some of the newly arrived soldiers were heading straight home to family like Bill Mockus, pictured below with mother Roseanne and 11-year-old son Jarrod, others hopped in cars and headed to area nightclubs including Brockton’s Luis Quinones.
“This is amazing—she’s amazing,” Quinones, 35, said as he eyed a black stretch limousine parked in front of the armory that was rented by Asia Allen, a Scottsdale, Arizona resident who has worked as a medical specialist in Afghanistan with the more than dozen soldiers waiting to jump into the limo and cars parked nearby to go have a good time on the town.
“I had to. These guys deserve it,” Allen said. (Pictured below)
“You don’t know what these guys have been through,” she said.
The guys said the same of her and said her skills as a medic are incredible and have saved lives and limbs. They also pointed out that she has never visited Massachusetts or Brockton before last night.
“It’s worth it,” she said.
Weymouth’s Joseph, in the army for 10 years, said he has performed two tours of duty in Iraq and one in Afghanistan.
Joseph said he has spent the last year in Afghanistan as a member of the Army’s Wolfpack, a battalion whose dangerous missions have been highlighted by CNN and The Washington Post.
His wife Julene shook her head to indicate the negativity of the Afghanistan experience, saying “It’s been a long year. “
Joseph said Afghanistan is worse than Iraq and he does not want to go back. He has a much better idea.
“I want to make some babies,” he said.