Just before Independence Day, people lined the streets to welcome home a local firefighter and internationally traveled soldier.
People and flags waved as the Millville Volunteer Fire Company escorted Specialist Charlie Mood Jr., 28, from the Indian River Inlet to the firehouse Tuesday. His company was the last of the Delaware National Guardsmen to return from Afghanistan.
Under American flags and “Welcome Home” signs, people lined the streets from the inlet to the fire hall. Lord Baltimore Elementary School even had a small contingent, including staff and a few students.
“We didn’t know who he was, but we wanted to be part of it,” said one teacher.
“A local school supporting local people,” another man said.
“That was amazing. I loved that,” Mood said at the firehouse. “It’s good to be back.”
A Frankford resident, Mood has served with the MVFC for nearly eight years.
“I missed family. Not only my family, but my firehouse family. I missed being on trucks,” Mood said, adding that he looked forward to spending time with the family and enjoying a beer, which he couldn’t get in Afghanistan.
“This was an outpouring,” Mood said. “I love it. Small-town community, even with tourists coming down. … You’re not supposed to have emotions, but I actually teared up a little bit.”
Passing cars were still honking horns as he greeted his firehouse comrades.
“The support of the troops is key,” Mood said, from cards to care packages, which he said he dug into like “a little kid” at Christmas. Mail was wonderful, whether from a girlfriend or a stranger.
Mood’s parents were part of the motorcade, delighted to have their son home. Charles Mood Sr. had been worried about soldiers’ safety on this deployment, with U.S. troops now leaving Afghanistan.
Mood himself said it was a touchy subject.
“In 2009, 2010, we were closing the country. Now it seems we’re [opening it again],” he said.
His mother remembered when he first joined the Guard, around 2005.
“He’s changed so much,” Paula Mood said. “I wanted him to do it. It was something he wanted to do, but it was scary. I think it’s worse now [overseas],” but she could still text, telephone and Skype with him, which is more than soldiers could do 20 years ago.
“Just support the troops. They need every kind of support they can get,” Paula Mood encouraged. “They do miss home.”
She said she was grateful to MVFC, especially event organizer Gerald Brinson.
“He’s a good asset. He always has a story to tell about something,” said Brinson of Mood. Brinson said he just decided “Let’s do it” and to welcome Mood home properly.
“Our members are near and dear to our hearts, and it’s his second deployment overseas,” said Bob Powell, MVFC public information officer. “He’s put in a great deal of time for the country, and it shows with his volunteerism what he thinks of his country. …We’re excited for him.”
Mood had served in Iraq previously.
“Iraqi soldiers are very well equipped, very well trained, and Delaware soldiers helped train them,” Mood said of the nation now embroiled in a violent battle with forces looking to establish an Islamist caliphate there.
Mood said he was proud to return home with all 43 members of Detachment I, 150th Engineer Company, Horizontal Construction. They had two weeks at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst to decompress and deal with medical issues, paperwork, benefits and more.
“We were a tight family over there,” he said of the 150th, which is based in Newark. “We were all serving Delaware.”
Home a month early from their 12-month tour, the 150th’s mission was to facilitate the pull-out of U.S. troops by preparing forward operating bases (FOBs) for closure or transfer. The unit was also responsible for deconstructing FOBs, conducting inventories, sorting materials and hauling material and debris to designated areas.
The Delaware National Guard also hosted a welcome-home ceremony Tuesday morning in New Castle for the 150th before the individual troops headed home.