I had gotten an SOS type text from Madeline, Joe's girlfriend about two weeks ago asking if I was working the 11th, and surprisingly I had off. Joe was returning to Wisconsin on Sunday after spending time in California serving our country.
Joe's mom was planning a surprise welcome back party for him, which included the Honor Guard as well. His mom wanted a photographer and Madeline asked me if I would do it. Obviously I would. Who would turn down something so meaningful to such a good friend?
Madeline had planned to go out there the previous Thursday through that Sunday, spending time with Joe and his last few days in California. While she was there, Joe's family, friends and neighbors gathered together arranging a surprise party among his return.
The texts started coming every few minutes as Madeline was sending updates on what their location was while Joe was sitting next to her in the car. Madeline and Joe and Joe's parents made the final few miles back to their house from the O'Hare airport. Family and friends gathered along the street that was lined with American flags. Two motorcycles went down to the start of their street where they would lead the family mini-van the rest of the way down the street and around the cul-de-sac circle where he would be greeted by everyone.
Joe was not a happy camper when he realized what was going on, but in the end I think he was totally okay with it.