Sailor enjoys rousing welcome

Sailor’s hat in hand, Alan Wheeler, a hull technician in the U.S. Navy, walked through the doors of the Grand Junction Regional Airport lobby on Sunday in uniform — just as his mom had asked.

Patty and Terry Wheeler of Grand Junction wanted to take a picture of their son as soon as they saw him, but they were so excited they just hugged him.

About a dozen members of local armed forces support groups greeted Alan with signs and cheers Sunday as he arrived about 8:30 p.m.

Members of the Colorado Patriot Guard held up American flags and stood in line to shake Alan’s hand.

Women in the Grand Valley Blue Star Mothers group hugged him.

Everyone thanked him for his service.

Alan Wheeler is on leave after spending the past seven months in the Persian Gulf on the USS Abraham Lincoln, which is supporting ground operations in Iraq.

His parents were almost speechless about the whole ordeal.

“He is my baby,” Patty told the Blue Star Mothers.

At 21, Alan Wheeler is the youngest in the family. His older sister Miranda, 24, is also in the Navy. She will be returning home on Nov. 4, three days after he returns to duty.

It’s been almost a year since the siblings have seen each other, Patty Wheeler said.

Her son’s plane arrived 10 minutes early and caught everyone waiting a little off guard.

“We have been here until two in the morning if the planes are late in the winter time ... we’re not use to anybody being early,” said Wendy Hoffman, president of the Blue Star Mothers local chapter.

Holding back tears, Patty Wheeler said it was emotional for her to see all the people who turned out to welcome home her son. Patty also is a member of the Blue Star Mothers, but this is the first time she’s had the women come out for one of her own children.

“I love all you guys,” Patty told Hoffman.

“Well, thank you for raising him,” Hoffman replied.

Alan Wheeler is a graduate of Grand Junction High School. For the next six days, he said, he plans to relax and maybe do some drag racing with his father.

He hasn’t requested any special home cooked meals yet.

“But I’m sure he will,” Patty said.

The Blue Star Mothers are already assembling care packages for troops for the holidays.

They’re asking for nonperishable snack foods such as energy bars, toiletries, 12-inch artificial Christmas trees and more. Information about donation items and area dropoff locations can be found at or by email at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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