HAGERSTOWN — Ian Boyer had much to tell all his Facebook friends about on Wednesday night.
He told a tale about having a fried-chicken dinner with a group of people he didn’t know, even though they had a lot in common. He received more handshakes, backslaps and hearty “thank yous” than he could count.
It was the ultimate small town experience. Still, he was confused. His friends were envious.
“I’m just doing my job,” said Boyer, a Smithsburg graduate. “It is overwhelming when I come home. It’s culture shock.”
Fanfare isn’t part of Boyer’s job description as a machine gunner for the 1/6 Marines 2nd Margib, which is stationed in Afghanistan. But things have been a whirlwind for the last six months leading up to his 20-day leave and his evening with the AMVETS Post 10.
“I was going to make a post before I came, but I told the guys in my unit (via Facebook) that I was going to a party at the AMVETS,” Boyer said. “A lot of guys thought it was cool and wished their towns would do something like that for them.”
The truth is that Boyer’s platoon is as deeply indebted to Hagerstown as Boyer.
About six months ago, Boyer received a surprising letter from home. In the envelope, there was a story and pictures about the Hub City Softball League’s second annual Greene Turtle/Softball Show.com Home Run Derby at Municipal Stadium.
The letter told of Doug Levine, Lew Thomas and Gary Lum, who organized the first event in 2010 and looked for a cause for the money.
They found Marine Sgt. Justin A Langlotz, who was stationed with his battalion in Marjah, Afghanistan. In fact, Langlotz, who has been discharged from the service, missed Wednesday’s event because of work.
It told about the money raised, which he thought was cool.
Then came the kicker. Boyer — and his platoon — was the second recipient of this honor.
“I had no idea what was going on,” Boyer said. “My mom was writing me and telling me about this. And then she asked ‘What do you want?’”
For Boyer, the answer was easy.
“I wanted socks,” he said. “You don’t know how many pairs of socks you go through there because you are sweating through them all the time. Then I turned to the rest of the guys and asked them what did they want.”
There were food items to go with Chapstick, deodorant, tooth paste and baby wipes. The wipes were important because it was the closest thing the platoon got to a shower for seven months.
“The baby wipes were huge. Hygiene is important over there,” Boyer said.
The Home Run Derby provided assistance for 59 Marines in Boyer’s platoon.
On Wednesday, the AMVETS and the Hub City League provided some attention for one of their own.
“This is weird,” he said. “It’s always kind of awkward, but it’s nice. Still, it’s awkward.”
An intimate crowd of 35, including softball players and war veterans, turned out to meet Boyer. He received a proclamation from Washington County Board of Commissioners President Terry Baker, just one of a number of expressions of appreciation from a grateful hometown.
Boyer said he knows of so many people who can’t wait to get out of small towns. He said he’s glad to be back.
“Where we are stationed, we are no big deal,” he said. “This is so touching to see people reach out. I’m just doing my job.
“We have a saying in the Marines that we do the unknown and the unforgivable for the ungrateful. It’s not true. People do care.”