Marine Lance Corporal Andy Bowen came back home to Pleasanton Friday night from a seven-month deployment aboard the USS New Orleans to a rousing welcome by about 100 friends, family and military veterans and organizations in front of his parents' Melanie Circle home.
"It's just terrific to be in a town like Pleasanton and see how much popular support there is for our young men and women in uniform, and tonight is a great example," Congressman Jerry McNerney (D-Pleasanton) told the crowd.
"After the Korean War, our veterans were ignored. And after Vietnam, our veterans were shunned," McNerney added. "We did our country a national disservice and dishonor and we will never let that happen again. We will always show respect and thanks to our veterans who have served our country and we are doing that tonight."
McNerney presented Bowen with a Certificate of Congressional Recognition and a letter of appreciation for his service.
The event was hosted by Bowen's parents, Jane and George Bowen, and handled by Doug Miller, commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6298 in Pleasanton.
In addition to McNerney and Miller, other speakers included representatives of the Pleasanton City Council, American Legion, Pleasanton Military Families, Operation S.A.M. and Blue Star Moms.
Bowen served on the USS New Orleans as part of the Marines' Amphibious Readiness Group and the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). The ship left Southern California in January in support of global maritime security as the country's force in readiness within the Pacific and Central Commands.
During the deployment, those aboard spent several months conducting maritime security operations with coalition partners to provide security in international waters.
Along with his parents, Bowen was at the Oakland Airport by the Warriors' Watch Riders whose motorcycle units escorted the family on their drive back to Pleasanton.
"About 30 minutes ago I was getting off my airplane with my hat pulled low and my sunglasses on trying to make a really inconspicuous trip back to my house," Lance Corporal Bowen told the welcoming home crowd.
"About two steps down the stairs I couldn't help but notice a large collection of gentlemen with leather vests and flags and all of them waving at the bottom of the stairs. I was thinking, wow, someone really important must be coming in. Then I saw my dad in the mix and put two-and-two together and I got my first welcome home."
"I am really overwhelmed by this," he added. "If you know anybody else in the military coming back from deployment, I urge you to give them a pat on the back, too, from the lowest guys as privates all the way up to the colonels and generals. Everybody really puts everything they have into the service and I wish everyone I served with on that ship could get a homecoming like this."
His father George Bowen also thanked the nearly 100 who turned out for the welcome home celebration.
"Being at home and seeing our son away just lets us know how much sacrifice goes into what our young men and women in uniform do for us," he said. "It means a lot to have your support for our son and family."
City Councilman Jerry Thorne commended Lance Corporal Bowen "for your service to our nation."
"Those who dedicate their time, effort and skills to help others are among the most valued members of any community," Thorne said. "Your valor and dedication have impacted and improved countless lives. I wish you success and happiness in all the endeavors you may have."