The small town with a big Heart
With a parade and speeches, flags and balloons, two Winnebago area soldiers were welcomed back from duty in Afghanistan.
Calvin and Jennifer Howard are married and served together for 13 months at a base in Afghanistan. They returned to the U.S. back in January, to Fort Bragg in North Carolina.
On Tuesday they returned to Winnebago, and received a heroes welcome. There was a parade at 10 a.m. down Winnebago’s main street, Highway 169. Next came a special reception for the two soldiers at the Winnebago Community Center. The center was packed, with family and friends and many well-wishers. There were also all of the students from the BEA Elementary school in Winnebago. They had lined the parade route with signs and flags and then were seated on the floor in front of the soldiers at the program.
The program was led by Winnebago Chamber of Commerce President Scott Richardson. Speakers included Winnebago Mayor Randy Nowak and Faribault County Commissioners Tom Loveall and Tom Warmka.
Loveall thanked the two soldiers for their service, and said that they represent more than just themselves, but all service people. “We salute and thank you for your service, and also all of our armed forces,” Loveall said.
He added that the parade down the street honoring them had sent shivers down his spine.
Warmka agreed when he spoke. He talked about the commitment and sacrifice made by the soldiers, as well as their families. “Your dedication keeps us all safe and protects our freedoms,” Warmka said.
Warmka snapped a salute to the Howards, and said it brought a tear to his eye and a joy in his heart to be able to welcome them back home.
Choking back some tears, Calvin and Jennifer Howard thanked everyone for the warm welcome back, especially their family, the elementary students and the community.
“This is a big shock, we did not expect this,” the Howards said. “It is great that you guys are 100 percent behind us and support all of us,” they added. “Why we do this (serve in the military) is because of you guys.”
The Howards were given a standing ovation.
Jennifer Howard is from Winnebago, and Calvin is from Huntley. They served together in Afghanistan and were allowed to stay together in married persons housing.
Jennifer is an army intelligence specialist. “I love my job,” she said after the program. “I just love what I do, it is exciting.” Calvin is trained as a helicopter mechanic, but had been serving as a chaplain’s assistant at the base where they were stationed.
They will soon be headed back to Fort Bragg in North Carolina, and then will sometime get orders to be deployed elsewhere.
But on Tuesday, they were in Winnebago enjoying being with family and friends.
“This has been special to us,” Jennifer Howard said.
Robertson said that the Chamber had only learned that the Howards were coming home a week before. He thanked everyone who came together to make this welcome home a big success.
“We did want to make it special and meaningful,” he said.