Pittsfield guardsman gets grand welcome home from Afghanistan
PITTSFIELD — When Air National Guard Tech Sgt. Shaun Reagan was deployed to Afghanistan last fall, his daughter, Charlie, wasn't yet speaking. When he returned home this week, the 2-year-old was rattling off sentences.
"My daughter, before I left, she was just a little baby," Reagan said while family and neighbors gathered at his Lucia Drive home. "She's like a little girl playing with babydolls now."Reagan, also a full-time Pittsfield police officer, returned from his tour April 15. On Saturday he was escorted to his house by local and state police. More than 70 friends, family and neighbors lined the street waving flags and welcoming Reagan back to the Berkshires. A "Welcome Home" sign hung in the window of his house he's owned for seven years.
Reagan's wife, Heidi, held Charlie in her arms and their two sons, 7-year-old Nicholas and 3-year-old Kyle, stood nearby while residents thanked the 2004 Pittsfield High School graduate for his service.
Reagan, who previously served in the Navy, said that this deployment took him all over Afghanistan supporting a NATO mission.
"This has been the hardest," said Maria Brodeur, Reagan's mother. "This has been the most difficult."
Not only was the whole family worried about Reagan because of a more dangerous assignment, but it was also his first deployment since the children were born, she said.
Being apart from them at Christmas was challenging, she said.
"He's back in time for Easter," she said, relieved.
Brodeur and her husband, Robert, tried to see Heidi and their grandchildren at least twice a week while he was away. Heidi's parents, too, were around often.
"She kept the kids busy," Brodeur said of her daughter-in-law. "She's amazing."
Reagan's sister, Sarah, thought of her brother every day he was gone. She didn't ever want to let him know she was scared, but sometimes she'd just call him up in the middle of the day to see if he was OK, she said.
"It's a little different now that we're older," she said of her brother's deployments.
Brodeur said she leaned on friends, family and St. Joseph's Church to get through the last six months worrying about her son. "It was a whole family, a team effort," she said. "I just feel like I can breathe. I held my breath the whole time he was gone."
She also kept a diary about his time away, one that she hopes to give to her grandchildren when they're parents themselves.
Reagan is approaching his 15th anniversary in the military and he recently reenlisted for six more years.
As nerve-wracking as his trip was, Brodeur said she is not disappointed with his decision to stay in.
"When 9/11 happened, he was in eighth grade at Herberg Middle School and that's when he told me," she said. "He said, `Mom, I want to serve my country.' That was the proudest moment of my life."
Saturday's event, which in addition to family and fellow officers drew local officials, was one of many over the years organized by the Here at Home Committee, a group of volunteers that welcomes Berkshire soldiers home.
Reagan was the 40th soldier that auxiliary Pittsfield Police Officer Joe Bouquard has escorted home through the program.
"It's starting to slow down," he said about their returns. "We used to have two or three a year. "
Reagan said he doesn't like attention, "but I really appreciate all this."
Reagan has some time off before returning to work at the Pittsfield Police Department. Next week, he'll take his children to visit Thomas the Tank Engine at an event in Connecticut.
"The real Thomas," Kyle assured his dad, as he squeezed his hand.
Haven Orecchio-Egresitz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @HavenEagle on Twitter and 413-770-6977.
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