Photo Gallery | U.S. Army PFC. Cameron Pularo's homecoming
DALTON -- U. S. Army Pfc. Cameron Pularo was stunned by the homecoming he received Sunday evening after a 10-month tour of duty in Afghanistan.
The celebration included a local and state police escort from the Massachusetts Turnpike exit in Lee to Dalton followed by the Dalton Fire Department joining the procession to his home on Daly Avenue. Family, friends and other veterans lined Daly waving American flags as the car he was riding in pulled up to the front yard where his mother, Debbie Pularo, two brothers and sister awaited his arrival along with nearly 70 other people.
Then Pularo's mom gave him a I-won't-let-you-go hug after he exited the car; all to show appreciation for the 22-year-old soldier's service to his country -- and that he's safe at home.
"It was unreal," he said. "I expected 10 to 15 people."
Debbie Pularo was also overwhelmed by the support for her son, whose decision to enlist in the Army two years ago brought mixed emotions.
"My heart dropped when he told me, but he said it was his calling, and I respected that," she said.
"He was so proud to serve," added his maternal grandmother, Rosemary Callahan, of Pittsfield. "It broke our heart when he left, but we're glad he's home safe."
Cameron Pularo has 20 days of civilian life before he returns to the U.S. Army base in Baumholder, Germany where his unit is stationed. His homecoming is one week before Americans honor its military veterans on Memorial Day and one year after Dalton mourned the death of U.S. Army Spc. Mitchell K. Daehling. The 24-year-old Dalton man was killed in Afghanistan on May 14, 2013 and laid to rest in his hometown 10 days later.
Daehling and other fallen soldiers, sailors and Marines were on Debbie Pularo's mind when she heard Cameron would receive a big welcome home, coordinated by the Here at Home Committee of the Berkshires.
"I feel bad for families who never had this opportunity," she said. "[Cameron] was in harms way every day -- how was he so lucky and others were not."
The joyous homecoming began mid-afternoon, when Cameron Pularo was picked up at Logan International Airport in Boston by three friends, including Emily Hart, who was anxious to see her boyfriend of five years.
"It was a long wait, but worth it," Hart said. "It feels nice to hug him."
Following more hugs and handshakes after his arrival, the Here at Home Committee presented Pularo with a plaque and Dalton Selectmen Chairman John Boyle read a citation and welcomed the young man home on behalf of all the townspeople.
"We all know the sacrifice you and your colleagues is very appreciated by the turnout here," he said.
Dalton resident Carol Hanford added, "I think it's wonderful the community comes together to honor people like [Cameron]."
Cameron Pularo will spend the next three weeks getting reacquainted with family, friends and learning how to ride his new motorcycle, a 1994 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy his father encouraged him to buy.
"I bought it while I was in Afghanistan," he said. "I had the cash and trusted my father to buy."
Apparently dad made the right decision. Pularo mounted the Harley awaiting him in a nearby parking lot and smiled as he revved the engine.
To reach Dick Lindsay:
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