Lights, Sirens and Support Welcome Heartland Soldier Home

Lights, Sirens and Support Welcome Heartland Soldier Home
By: Carly O'Keefe
ANNA, IL --A convoy of "welcome wagons" greeted Sergeant Ben Hurst Tuesday in Union County. A group of family, friends and local authorities waited alongside Highway 146 in Union County for a glimpse of the vehicle carrying Hurst. When he arrived, a caravan of lights, sirens and support escorted the soldier back home.
"He'll know that we're supporting him, he's gonna get a good welcome," said Union County Sheriff James Nash.
It was a different sort of convoy than Sergeant Ben Hurst of Anna is accustomed to seeing in Iraq; and one he certainly didn't expect. 
"Right after we came through Ware, they were sitting there at a turnaround. I didn't think anything of it, I see road blocks in Iraq all the time, with lights and everything... then they started pulling out onto the road and it was a big surprise," said Hurst.
The cars and emergency vehicles escorted Hurst to the Anna City Park, where it was hugs all around. It was a reunion not only for Hurst and his family, but also for him and a second family that has in a sense adopted him as their own.
"I need a grandson, I don't have one now, so I would love to adopt him as a grandson because he was so special to Brian and so he' special to me," said "Granny" Sue Clary.
Hurst's best friend and combat buddy Brian Romine of Anna was killed in Iraq this summer. But even after such a tragic lost, Romine's family has not forgotten about its adopted son and soldier.
"Brian's mom has been like a mother to me, Brian's father's been like a father to me. H is grandmother bakes me brownies to make me feel more comfortable as I can be over there.  So, Brian's family I just can't say enough about them," Hurst said.
"I'm so proud that Ben's home, I feel like part of Brian is home because they were such good buddies," said Clary, who is Romine's grandmother.
According to Hurst, the love he receives from folks in his hometown, cards, letters, and especially brownies, helps him get through even the toughest times in Iraq. 
"Without them, over there would be a depressing place, without knowing that our family and friends are here supporting us," Hurst said.