Marine Sgt. Dan Devine isn’t used to a big homecoming.
The gunnery sergeant, who has been stationed out of Camp Pendleton in California, said he usually puts on his pack, heads home to his wife and two girls and “it’s just another day, another dollar.”
But for his third return from Afghanistan, the community welcomed him home at VFW Post 5343 in the Villas section of Lower Township, where he’s a member
“It’s nice to know that small towns like this still care about the people serving,” said Devine, 33, still in slight shock after a greeting that included firetrucks and lots of veterans on motorcycles.
“A lot of my friends didn’t come home, so I always get a little emotional,” he said later, speaking before the group that filled the VFW hall. “A lot of men and women are still serving that will come home, and there are a lot who won’t come home.”
“It’s very important to sit here and show our support for our guys coming home,” Post Commander Bill Howard said. “They’re putting their lives on hold for six months to a year.”
Kathleen Devine estimates her dad has done that about seven or eight times in her lifetime. She said it’s always sad when he leaves, but she couldn’t keep the smile off her face Saturday as she hugged her dad and even opened some presents. Her 12th birthday is Monday.
“That he’s home for my birthday, that’s amazing,” she said.
The community support was especially appreciated by Devine’s uncle, Butch Cunningham, a Marine who served in the Vietnam War in 1967: “It’s not like our day, when people spit on you.”
Janice Devine, of the Rio Grande section of Middle Township, was looking forward to the week she would have with her second eldest son, who will now be based in Virginia. Her oldest, Christian, is a major in the Marines.
She remembered the day they went to visit Christian when Dan was about 16 or 17. She asked what the teen was thinking as he leaned against a bunk.
“I’ll never be here,” he said.
His mother took a photo of him there, and still has it.
“I tell him, ‘Remember what you said?’” she said. “And look where you are now.”
Southern Liz, of the Patriot Guard Riders, gave credit to the sergeant’s mother as well.
“If it wasn’t for her,” Liz said, “we wouldn’t be here today.”
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