Two happy homecomings

April 28, 2004|by BOB MAGINNIS

In the Biblical story of the Prodigal Son, when a son feared lost forever finally returns home, there is great rejoicing.

Well, nobody killed a fatted calf last week, but two Washington County families did celebrate the return of children who had been in a great deal of jeopardy.

Lynn Jones of Keedysville welcomed back her two children, Kevin and Kelly Hurlbrink, back from Iraq, where they had served as members of the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division.

And Jimmy and Angela Koontz brought their daughter Alivia, who recently underwent surgery for a heart defect, back to Hagerstown.

Jones' celebration was the livelier of the two. More than 50 friends of the family and members of the South County Military Support Group gathered this past Saturday at the Burnside bridge Church of God in Sharpsburg to welcome home the Hurlbrink children and a friend, Travis Rohrer, a U.S. Marine just returned from Okinawa.


"I just want to thank everybody for their support and for all the things they did. We've formed some wonderful relationships," Jones said.

Kelly Hurlbrink, her voice breaking with emotion, thanked everybody for all they have done, but saved a special mention for her brother, who was stationed with her.

"If he wasn't there with me, I don't know if I'd have been able to do it," she said.

Kevin Hurlbrink said the hardest time to be away was during the holidays, adding that he's looking forward to some family time before his next deployment.

That could come as soon as the fall of this year, he said, but added that whether Kelly joins him is uncertain.

"There are three brigades in our division. If the entire division is called up, we would both be deployed," he said.

"I don't want to go," Kelly said.

"But if that's what I'm called to do, I will. It's just being away from home that I don't like," she said.

That and duty as tower guard, where she worked four hours on and then eight hours off, watching for signs of the enemy.

Others at the celebration are waiting for news about their own relatives.

Don and Betty Burger's son, Danny, just returned home to Fort Campbell, Ky.

"He was in Afghanistan for six months and Iraq for a year. We know they're going to be deploying them again," Mrs. Burger said.

Shirley Metz is waiting for the return of her grandson, Brian Beall, who's stationed in Iraq with Naval Construction Battalion 74 of the Seabees.

Beall and 125 other soldiers left for their second tour in February. The construction battalion is assigned to work with local Iraqi contractors to rebuild the economy there.

Let's hope there's a happy homecoming for all of them.

Baby Alivia came to her Hagerstown home for the first time last Wednesday, after heart surgery at the Nemours Cardiac Center in Delaware.

Her mother, Angela Koontz, said the drive from there to Hagerstown took three hours, a trip Alivia apparently took in stride.

"The doctor's really surprised at how well she's doing," Mrs. Koontz said.

Just before the first operation, doctors discovered that in addition to a heart defect for which she'll need two more operations, one lung is also underdeveloped.

"We have to keep an eye on her and make sure her color stays fine," she said.

The baby's weight is also a concern. She now weighs 6 pounds, her mother said.

It took Alivia a while to learn how to bottle-feed because she was fed intravenously at first.

Asked if she has a personality yet, her mother said that she's starting to smile now and then.

"And she reacts to our voices and she follows us now and then. But she has her days and nights mixed up," she said with a laugh.

Unfortunately, no one is laughing about the medical bills piling up. The tab is at least $20,000 now and Mrs. Koontz said they haven't even gotten the surgeon's bill.

She thanked everyone for their support, not only the money that's been contributed, for also for their prayers.

On May 22, the Williamsport Moose Lodge at 119 N. Conococheague St.,will be hosting a meal and bonanza to raise money for Alivia's medical bills.

The cost is $30 per couple, with dinner served at 4 p.m. The top prize is $500. For tickets, call Debbie Churchey at 304-277-1085 or Renita Statler at 301-733-2736. Churchey said that following the event, the band Borderline will play, beginning at 9 p.m.

Bob Maginnis is editorial page editor of The Herald-Mail newspapers.

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