Community Welcomes Hero Home From Afghanistan for the Holidays

A crowd of joyful family and friends turned out to celebrate Sgt. Fred Ligon's homecoming.

United States Air Force Reserves Tech Staff Sgt. Frederick Ligon hugs his mother tightly upon his return home from Afghanistan.
United States Air Force Reserves Tech Staff Sgt. Frederick Ligon hugs his mother tightly upon his return home from Afghanistan.
Tears were flowing and cheers of joy filled the air as the community turned out in Riverhead Wednesday to welcome a hero home from Afghanistan.

Carrying signs that read "Welcome Home," a crowd of family, friends and supporters gathered on Route 58 in Riverhead to open their arms to U.S. Air Force Reserves Tech Staff Sgt. Frederick Ligon, of the 106th Rescue Wing, Air National Guard in Westhampton Beach.

When Ligon arrived in the parking lot by Staples, a loud cheer rose up from the crowd who'd lined Route 58, waving signs, honking their horns, and cheering. 

"It doesn't get any better than this," Ligon said, holding his mother, family, and friends tightly. "There's no place like home. Once you go over there, you never take home for granted again."

As they waited for his homecoming, Ligon's family and friends reflected on Ligon's return to the United States.

His mother, Georgia Hale, said she was filled with happiness at her son's safe return — and said the seven months she'd waited for his homecoming had been marked by fear.  "I can't describe it," she said. "I had to stop watching CNN."

Asked what she'd do when she first saw her son, she said simply, "Cry."

Ligon's son, Chaki Ligon, was waiting with his daughter Amaya, who celebrated her first birthday while her grandfather was in Afghanistan. "It's a blessing, to have him come home for the holidays," he said. "A blessing that he made it home safely. This makes it a great Christmas."

"I'm so happy he's coming home," said his aunt Danny Costello. "It's been a long wait — seven months. This is, indeed, a happy story."

Her nephew, Costello said, is a hard worker, "a family man — and very patriotic."

Ligon was reunited with his wife Kim and their two daughters. 

Aunt Roxine Hale said she was excited to see Ligon again. "I'm so thankful for his service — and that he's home safe," she said. "I love each and every veteran who sacrifices so much to protect us."

Ligon's father, also Fred Ligon, said simply, "I'm very proud."

Vermona Smith-Brandon, who worked to organized the gathering, said she enlisted the Riverhead fire department to send a truck, lights flashing. Of his return so close to the holidays, she said, "This is the best present."

His voice filled with emotion, Ligon said, "It feels good to be home."


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