Welcome home, Private Tenscher. It's time to report for some family duty.
After 5 1/2 months in combat zones in Iraq, Pvt. Ryan Tenscher of the United States Army received a warm welcome Monday night at his parents' home in the Pointe Marin area of Ignacio. He has a 15-day leave before he has to head back.
“I’m so excited. I’ve been crying,” said Tenscher’s wife, Haley, who will celebrate their one-year wedding anniversary in March.
Tenscher, 20, the son of Kevin and Chris Hughes, landed in San Francisco after his first combat tour and was whisked to a surprise reception at the In N Out Burger in Mill Valley. Friends and family gave Tenscher a fast-food welcome back to Marin soil as did eight of the 12 women of the American Legion Post #179 Auxiliary based in San Anselmo — including Chris Hughes.
“My meal was free,” Tenscher said. “The people there just said, ‘It’s on us.’ A couple of people came up and shook my hand. It’s awesome.”
A Novato police officer intercepted the short procession of vehicles — some with flags flying — at the Bel Marin Keys exit of Highway 101 and gave Tenscher an escort with lights flashing the rest of the way home.
Several combat veterans on motorcycles were part of the entourage, including Gary Sponseller of Antioch. “Sponie” said his group, the Warriors’ Watch Riders, “brings kids home from all over. I say kids … I should say they’re soldiers. Anybody who is coming home, we’re going to make sure we’re there for them.”
Sponseller served in Vietnam combat zones as an air mobility pathfinder, clearing landing zones for helicopters and designating them with smoke. He was sent home with malaria and hepatitis, he said. Now he has a son training to be in Special Forces.
“We need to be here for these guys,” Sponseller said of Tenscher.
Sponseller and two other veterans made short speeches on the Hughes' driveway. The private was presented with several commemorative coins and received several ovations and hugs.
Tenscher attended Novato High and graduated from Petaluma Adult School before signing up with the Army in February 2009. He went to basic training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri and then joined up with the 3d Armored Cavalry Division based at Fort Hood, Texas. Tenscher was there when an Army psychiatrist shot and killed 13 people and wounded 29 others in November 2009, but it wasn't a subject to be brought up Monday.
Trained as a combat engineer, he was deployed to Iraq in August 2010, landing in Baghdad and sent to Kalsu. He has served as a driver of a mine-resistant vehicle used on missions to clear roadside bombs.
Tenscher and more than 200 other soldiers touched down in Dallas to an unforgettable reception, he said.
“We got out of the terminal and went through customs, and then went down this long hallway that has a glass wall,” he said. “On the other side were a couple hundred people clapping and cheering for us. That was pretty amazing.”
His stay will be short, but he plans to make the most of it. He said his schedule includes some snowboarding near Lake Tahoe, a nice dinner and hotel stay in San Francisco with his wife, a visit to his grandmother’s house in Stockton and not much couch-potatoing.
“I will try to be on the go,” he said while sitting next to his younger brother, Patrick, a Novato High student. “It’s just family.”
As for the reception Monday night, Tenscher added, “It was awesome of people to do that. It’s good to know people care.”