With a flag wavers on overpasses and a motorcycle escort, Marine Corps Cpl. Gary Travis of Novato returned home Thursday night from his second tour of duty in Afghanistan.
A 2006 graduate, Travis rolled up Midway Boulevard with a decorated black Humvee leading the pack and loud Harleys with American flags behind him. He got out and hugged his mother, Nancy, his aunt, Barbara, and his father, Scott, along with a host of family members, neighbors, friends and a few combat veterans whom he’d never met.
“I knew he was going to be embarrassed by all this,” Nancy Travis said.
Earlier, Barbara Travis, president of Blue Star Moms of Marin, talked about what it was like to have her nephew home safely.
“It’s awesome. We’re so thrilled to have him coming home,” she said as she headed to San Francisco International Airport to greet her nephew. “This is the best part of Blue Star Moms. We have a couple of other moms here in the car. This means an awful lot to me.”
When he pulled up at 8:15 p.m. Thursday, the 23-year-old Marine saw three decorated horses and riders with American flags waiting for him at the corner of Midway and Renata Court, just off Sunset Parkway. On horseback were Donna Sexton, Tracy Gould and Debbie Wright of the Sonoma County outfit called American Soldier Freedom Riders.
“I couldn’t believe they got horses here,” he said. “I thought that was pretty amazing. Coming around the corner and seeing the rest of my family and couple my friends and couple my neighbors … that really brought it all home to me, seeing my neighbors outside their houses and stuff.”
Members of the nationwide Warrior’s Watch program and local chapters of the Patriot Guard and Rip City Riders were part of the escort assemblage, and the corporal was presented with several commemorative coins. He also received a handshake from the real-life G.I. Jane, Jane Parkhurst of Novato, who inspired the movie of that name.
Cpl. Gary Travis did one combat tour in Afghanistan as a dog handler focusing on explosive ordinance detection and then volunteered for a second tour at Camp Leatherneck training other Marines and their dogs. He said two tours was enough for him, so he’ll complete his final 10 months with the Marines before heading to Sacramento State to work on a bachelor’s degree. He plans a career in law enforcement.