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Williamsport honors returning Marine

May 02, 2002|BY SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

After serving overseas for months, including 43 days in Afghanistan, Marine Cpl. Eugene Danfelt said he is glad to be home on leave in Williamsport, and to have a chance to spend time with family and friends.

Danfelt, 22, a Williamsport native, said he had no idea town residents would also honor him with a parade through town and a ceremony at Byron Memorial Park.

"I thought it was very nice. I didn't expect anything like this," he said.

About 100 people watched at the park as Mayor John Slayman, Del. Robert McKee, R-Washington, and others thanked Danfelt for serving his country.

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"I am so glad you are back and safe," McKee told him.

Slayman said Wednesday's parade of fire trucks, ambulances and a convertible in which Danfelt rode was the idea of Slayman's wife, Elissa. Slayman said he thought it was an appropriate way to honor Danfelt.

The parade started at the Williamsport Volunteer Fire Department station on Brandy Drive, wound through town streets and ended at the park.

Danfelt, who is in the third year of his four-year enlistment in the U.S. Marine Corps, told the crowd to continue praying for the safety of U.S. troops.

Even before the Sept. 11 attacks, Danfelt's company of more than 200 Marines was scheduled to go to the Mediterranean Sea for operations, he said.

But in mid-December, the company was sent to help set up security at the airport in Kandahar, Afghanistan, he said. He was nervous at first but it helped that he trusted the Marines in his company, he said.

Members of his company dug in and provided security as U.S. planes flew in and out of the airport, he said. Company members spent a lot of time just waiting in case the airport was attacked, he said.

"It was very boring at some times," he said. When bored and needing motivation, he looked at pictures of his family and girlfriend.

He and others were sufficiently bored and anxious that at times they wished they would be attacked so they could fire back, he said.

After 43 days at the airport, the company was given new orders and left the county, he said.

He never saw any conflict and said he was glad he didn't.

"It was not what I thought war would be like," he said.

He said he thought war would be more like the opening scene of the film "Saving Private Ryan," which portrays Americans being killed during the Normandy Beach landing on D-Day.

Danfelt returned to Williamsport on April 24. He is to return to home base at Camp Lejune, N.C., on May 16.

Among those who stood near the park and watched the parade was resident Nina Zimmerman, who said her presence was a way of showing her support for U.S. troops.

Standing nearby was Salina Rider, who said the parade was a good idea.

"I think he should be honored," she said.

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