AP NEWS

Community uses a bit of trickery to give soldier a welcome home

March 4, 2019

BULLHEAD CITY — A large show of love and pride came after a small act of subterfuge on Sunday.

Some of the people involved with organizing a welcome home luncheon for U.S. Army Spec. Brett Stokesberry, 20, told the young man he was going to be escorted to the airport because he had been called back to duty. The Mohave High School graduate has been home for about a week after a stint at Al Assad, Iraq, and will be stationed soon at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

Yikes!

Stokesberry’s family was in on the trickery. The goal was to make sure he didn’t know about the gathering for as long as possible.

The escort party of people from local groups such as the Patriot Guard and Post 60 American Legion Riders were able to get Stokesberry out of the house and on the road before one of the sneaky veterans finally fessed up and told him he actually was being thrown a welcome home party.

Stokesberry said afterward that he thought the prank was pretty funny.

Tri-State Military Moms and members of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 10005 threw the party with help from other groups and community members.

After a huge welcome home outside the VFW Post with cheering, flag waving, and more hugs, handshakes and picture poses than could be counted, the party moved inside.

Along with an array of gifts for Stokesberry — such as a poem, certificate, gift cards and VFW membership for a year — the community also wanted to recognize his parents, Judy Smith and Todd Stokesberry, and gave them some gifts as well.

After receiving tokens of appreciation, including a key to the city from Bullhead City Mayor Tom Brady, Stokesberry thanked the crowd.

“When I was growing up I couldn’t wait to get out of here,” he said.

But once Stokesberry left to join the Army, he kept thinking about home. He often would talk about home with others around him.

That was because it was such a great place, he said.

He also made sure to thank those who sent care packages to him and the people with whom he was stationed in Iraq.

Vickie Anderson, of the VFW Auxiliary, had help from students at Desert Star Academy to prepare holiday care packages. The Tri-State Military Moms also put together such packages during the year. The fudge was a favorite among those in his unit.

“This town is the best,” Stokesberry said.

After the presentations was a massive potluck meal and a special cake.

While the trickery earlier in the day likely caused Stokesberry a bit of temporary stress, it didn’t remotely compare with his job in the Army as a scout. It’s pressure-filled, but also extremely exciting and gratifying, he explained.

His duty is to get uncomfortably close to enemy forces by sneaking into their territory. His responsibility while there is to keep track of what they are doing. He monitors and reports those enemy activities to command.

Stokesberry explained that if he finds three enemy tanks siting out in the open he can report the location to command and ask for someone to fly over and blow them up.

Being able to protect others in his unit by watching the enemy — without them knowing you’re essentially in their backyard — gives him a thrill and a feeling of satisfaction.

“I love my job,” he said.

He received one more surprise on Sunday. It was also a good one: His best friend, Nathan Cody, showed up at the party. He flew in from Colorado Springs, Colorado, to be there.