By: Cheryl K. Chumley

The Washington Times

Thirteen Marines heading home from Afghanistan were given an   impromptu hero’s welcome at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport    earlier this week — a surprising honor that included cheers, a fire truck water salute and the ceding of several first-class tickets by   other passengers.

The Marines were on the final leg of a journey   that included five  days of boarding and exiting various planes and  were first recognized  by a firetruck water salute as their plane  taxied toward the terminal,  The Associated Press reported. A crowd of  cheering USO volunteers,  firefighters, police officers and airport  workers then greeted them  inside the building, AP said.

American  Airlines then upgraded six of the Marines’ tickets on a San Diego-bound  flight to  first class — the last of the available seating in that  section, AP   reported. Seven other first-class ticket holders  immediately gave up their seats, though, and traded down so the Marines  could all sit  together.

“It was incredibly touching,” said Capt.  Pravin Rajan, speaking to  the AP by phone from Camp Pendleton in  California. “Afghanistan is a  very complex and ambiguous war … and a  difficult thing to keep track of,  so it is amazing when we are 10 years  [into] a war and there is still  that kind of community, that level of  support, the level of willingness  to go out of one’s way.”


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