By Karen Anderson, WBZ-TV

BOSTON (CBS) – A Massachusetts mother and her six children are trying to stay strong, dealing with the disappointment that they won’t be able to be together to welcome home their father home from Afghanistan.

Jennifer Lee and her children, who range in age from one to eight years old, were looking forward to the moment they would see Lt Col John Lee return to Massachusetts with his 26th Yankee Brigade after his year deployment. She says her children and other soldier’s families had made signs and were told it would be a daytime return.

But then, she says they got the word that the day changed, and then again another change that the soldiers would come home at 11 pm. For the Lees, that means the children won’t be able to be there.

WBZ-TV’s Karen Anderson reports

Jennifer says she is very disappointed. “I was really looking for that moment, so the kids can see him and hold their signs up they were working on. Just disappointment,” says Jennifer. “We already went through the sad part, I want to do the happy part.”

National Guard spokesperson Lt Col James Sahady released the following statements:

  • “The Soldiers need to go through an “administrative process” in New Jersey before returning home and times vary based on the availability of the full-time support personnel at the active duty station: Joint Base Dix-McGuire-Lakehurst.”
  • “The arrival of the soldiers at about 11:00 p.m. on February 9, 2012 in Reading is an informal welcome home ceremony held at the unit’s armory. The Massachusetts National Guard will hold a formal welcome home ceremony for all the Soldiers and Family members at a later date.”
  • “The unit was initially scheduled to return home on Friday, Feb. 10, 2012, this would have required the unit to conduct the “administrative process” in Massachusetts on Saturday keeping the Soldiers away from their Families for an additional weekend. To expedite the completion of this mission and return our Soldiers to their Families, the Army gave permission for the unit to return home on Thursday.”
  • “Our goal is to compress the three day post-deployment administrative process in Massachusetts into one day Friday. This will allow the opportunity to give the Soldiers a two-day weekend pass with their Families. By bringing the Soldiers home one day early, they will now have the weekend off.”

Jennifer says she would rather have the full family together to welcome Lt Col Lee home.

She will be there to pick up her husband, and wishes her children could share that moment as well.

“My kids who have sacrificed a lot over the past year, they’re going to miss out on that experience,” she says.

Comments (31)
  1. Liz says:

    I agree with Jennifer that even though this is an “informal” event they should be coming home to all their loved ones. our soldiers do not deserve this. What is not mentioned is that soldiers who live in the western part of the state have to stay overnight at a hotel so they can report back to the armory Friday morning. If their families want to see their soldier of Thursday, they either have to pay for a hotel room out of their pocket or drive 2 hours there, see their loved one for a short time, drive 2 hours home, and then turn around and drive 2 hours Friday to pick up their soldier. The least they could do is allow the soldiers to have a room to themselves so that their immidiate family has a place to stay and won’t be in danger driving so late at night.

  2. Peggy Dempsey says:

    I totally disagree. I don’t even understand how THIS is a newsworthy event. This spouse IS going to see her war hero come HOME …..ALIVE. Lets put this in perspective folks. There are thousands of husbands, wives and significant others who would put up with this de3lay and worse if it meant their loved one would be HOME. This story was sickening

    1. Dawn says:

      Really???? whats sickening is that you find it sickening that these children who have lived without there father for the past year are not going to be there to see there dad when he steps of the bus and also he will not be able to see the faces he has been dreaming about this past year. I am sure Jennifer is ecstatic that he is home safe and ALIVE as WE all out. Like she stated she is disappointed.. I am going to assume by this post that you and your children have not lived through a deployment, so your opinion does not matter… and If you have then shame on you.

    2. NICOLE says:

      The only thing sickening is how arrogant and insensitive you are!! You have no clue what these wives, mothers and children have endured the past year. Worrying day and night….you obviously have no family morals or compassion for anyone but yourself. I am not a wife or mother to these heros, but if I was I would not want to put up with a delay. I have seen first hand how these families are affected by their loved ones away and ALL they have to do on their own, they are heros in their own right. If you are that bored and have nothing else to do, get a hobby or read a book. I’m sure every mother out there would want her children to see their fathers arrive as the heros they are. Your behavior is deplorable and you should be ashamed, I’m embarassed for you. GET A LIFE!!!

  3. Lori says:

    The formal welcome home ceremony is scheduled for May. Whether their homecoming is Thursday or Friday, the formal welcome has been scheduled for May for months. By the time May comes, the newness of the homecoming will have worn off. My friends were going to stand by the highways as the buses passed with signs, but I do not think they will be out and about at midnight and if they were, no one would probably even see them.

  4. On the bus says:

    As an enlisted member of the unit, I am largely in agreement with Peggy’s position. While I feel for the disappointment on the part of the families most affected (those with large families, distant from the armory), there are a number of mititgating factors to this story.

    First, the demobilization process is driven primarily by 1st Army and Fort Dix, irrespective of the wishes of the 26th MEB – any concessions secured for the 26th have been fought for by our chain of command. Second, the Big Army determines who qualifies for lodging and what type of lodging will be provided(but I know the 26th has continued to work to improve these arrangements even before this story broke). Third, some soldiers like myself would prefer to quietly return home and will not miss a coming home ceremony, and would prefer a more expeditous permanent return to our families . Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, the CMD group has had to contend with all these competing priorities in coming to this final arrangement, I think overall the compromise at hand is as good as any under those conditons.

    None of this is meant to diminish the validity of Mrs. Lee’s opinions, I know first hand that her husband is a top notch officer with whom it has been an honor to deploy, I am sorry for her disappointment, but it is my opinion that the CDR of the 26th worked diligently and came up with the best option within our reach under these challenging conditions. I’ve demobed through Fort Dix before, and even with painstaking planning, much of the end result is a crap shoot; there is only so much the demobilizing unit can control and only so many people that will be happy with the end results. Understandably the raw emotions of reuniting families do not often mix well with the logistical difficulties in the demobilization process, it is never an easy time.

  5. Liz says:

    I still feel our soldiers deserve much more than what they are going to receive when they get back. The ceremony in May is a joke. I agree with Dawn when she states seeing you’re loved one’s faces as you step off the bus is the true homecoming and that moment has been stolen from our soldiers.

  6. Jenn says:

    I don’t agree. What is the problem with the children going? I realize it is late, but it is only one day out of their lives and seeing their father should be more important. I am not sure why this is news either. Just take the children.

    1. jenn says:

      te problem is getting 6 small chilldren up in the middle of the night….only to have their dad have to go back to the army mere hours after. and them not realizing why he is still not home….

      1. The end is in sight! says:

        The price we pay for all the joy a large, young family brings us! I’m in the same boat (only 5 kids though!), but two running high temps. We’re just picking him up when they’re done Friday. The kids are just as excited and proud of their Dad and the signs they made. They’re too young to know what they are missing and their father too experienced with the nuisances of our family to expect us to be there (it was his idea!). Bring your kids and their signs Friday. They only pick up on our own disappointments and our own excitement. Make it exciting! Maybe we’ll see you there!! Happy Homecoming!!!!

    2. Marine Mom says:

      EXACTLY !!!!!! give them a nap and then shut up !!!!!!!

  7. Kurt says:


    I grew up in a military family. My father was gone for extended periods for up to a year at a time. My mother had to care for four children in his absence, I HAVE BEEN THERE!! Most military people I know would gladly sacrifice the fanfare in order to return home sooner.

    The military is getting the husband home several days early. It is the mother’s choice not to get her children up for this special occasion. IT IS HER CHOICE THAT CAUSES THIS DILEMMA. Many families gladly get children up for the memorable occasion regardless of the circumstances.

    I appreciate the sacrifices of Lt Col Lee and his family.However, Mrs. Lee is completely out of line complaining to the media when this glad occasion fails to meet her fantasy scenario.


    1. Jenn Lee says:

      not a fantasy…something that should be done in the light of day so his 6 small children can see their .dad He is coming home all of 6 hours sooner……

    2. Jenn says:

      Kurt….he is arriving mere hours earlier than what was expected… we are not talking days…. If i pack up my kids and meet him at midnight that is great except for the fact that he has to then report back to duty hours after his return….and my children are left wondering why he is still not home……

  8. Ann says:

    Lets stop trying to be like the reality TV people with the welcome home greeting stuff aren’t you happy to have them one day earlier !!
    You can make your own homecoming welcome in your own house for petes sake

    this is all crazy talk

  9. Veteran says:

    First and foremost. I think Mrs. Lee has a great point! The people who suffer the most are the famlies that are left to fend for themselves.

    The loss of a father for one year can be devastating to the structure of the family fabric.
    Mr Lee obviously left a busy family environment that came to a standstill for over a year. The National Guard provides little for family support during that period. The real “hero” in this story is Mrs. Lee. Bless you !!!!!

  10. Wilson says:

    My husband is one of the soldiers coming home with the 26th MEB tonight. I can make a comment because I am a wife with children -one of which will be unable to attend due to the change of arrival)who also sacrificed this year. I am also one of the parties that must travel 2 hours to and from tonight. We had plans to go to dinner with family and all that as well. The reality check is that there are many fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters who did not come home from Afghanistan or Iraq. I don’t care what time of day or night, convenient or not convenient, that my husband will come home. The fact is he is coming home. It is better to miss the homecoming if you so choose than to miss a lifetime without that person as part of your life. The celebration isn’t about banners and parades as nice and appreciated as they are …the celebration is being able to hold that person and tell them how much you love them again.

    1. gramps says:

      Well done/said,

      Thank you & yours, for your service!


  11. jenn says:

    not looking for a ticker tape parade….just want the kids to see their dad in the light of day…..We have a 2 hr ride home, and he then will return while they are sleeping…difficult to explain to very young kids why he has come and then gone again so suddenly…..

  12. Emily says:

    She should look at the bright side: 1) He’s coming home. ALIVE. 2) She gets to have a little time ALONE to welcome him home. Once her 6 kids see their father, she won’t have a single moment alone with him.

  13. A 26th MEB Soldier says:

    There is no other feeling in the world for the family members than to watch their loved one, their Soldier be escorted in by the police, step off the bus and march together in formation with the guidon raised high. The excitement is overwhelming. The balloons are flying high. The young children are holding banners that read “We miss you daddy.” and “Thank you for your sacrifice.” The crowd is cheering loudly. It is like a group a superstars just rolled in.

    As Soldiers, we have made many sacrifices and we deserve that red carpet treatment. That 15 minutes of fame would have forever been cemented into our memories. But it has all been taken away from us.

    “Do as I say and not as I do.” “Everybody for themselves.” There was this toxic environment in the leadership throughout the deployment. The lack of integrity was rampant. This final act should not come as a surprise.

    Shame on the self-center leadership within.

  14. Welcome Home says:

    When it comes down to it the 26th isn’t the first unit to return at midnight and they will not be the last. It happens every year, it happened the year before they left with another unit. There was no story, there was no out rage, there was family Soldiers and happiness.

    Although there will not be everything there would have been had the return been during the day, i doubt when the Soldiers step off the bus anyone will say “hey this is great but it would have been better to wait”

    Its been a year and I understand people want everything to be perfect for the homecoming, but nothing is ever perfect. lets just be happy everyone came home safe and will be returning to their families.

  15. Alyssa says:

    I find it very funny, that we do not want to celebrate the homecoming of this military unit. What these soldiers and their families have had to sacrifice over the last year was enormous. I couldn’t imagine having to be apart from my family and loved ones for that amount of time.
    This country needs to get it’s values straight. We seem to want to celebrate everything, but our true heroes. These military families have sacrificed enough. Have some respect!

  16. SSG Liriano says:

    I am an Active Duty Soldier with 21 years of service,

    First of all, that Unit messed up. They could have planned this homecomming much better so you wouldn’t run into this kind of problem.

    There is no better feeling in the world to either get off that plane or bus and jump in formation and march down to see your family members there, waiting for you and then hear your Battalion Commander yell out “Dissmissed!” becaue before you got to this point all the medical, admin and paperwork stuff was allready done a couple of days ago.

    I had only one time in my 21 years in to do that formation and march down to see my family and be dissmissed. That was in 1992 for Operation Southern watch in Saudi Arabia. When I did OIF and all the other small delpoyments and Haiti I didn’t get that. There is a great sense of Honor & Pride when you come home to your loved ones knowing that you did a job well done.

    SSG D. Liriano
    Retiring this April 2012

  17. Jessica says:

    Hi Jenn,

    I work with your mom and found this story because she told me about it. I was then taken hugely aback when I read all the comments. Don’t listen to these people, they’ll drive you crazy. Thank you and your husband for your service…your mom and I had so much fun skyping with him and the students at school!

  18. Jeanine says:

    These people are crazy!!! Only your friends and family know what sacrafices you and your children have endored over this past year. We all love you , and thank you for all your husband has done for us. Welcome home LTC John Lee!!!
    God Bless America!!!!
    One more thing, you only come home once, so a homecoming in May, defetes the purpose.
    love ya,

  19. Marine Mom says:

    You are missing the point …. HE CAME HOME … it should not matter what time he comes in all that matters is he CAME HOME . How do you think families who have lost someone feel when they see that story on the news ???? Your very lucky to have him coming home soo close there are others who are not able to make trips to California or wherever to welcome home their loved one. I have been there for Welcome homes and i have seen the looks on the families whose loved one DID NOT GET OFF THE BUS !!!! but they were there to welcome home their loved ones brothers so figure it out !!!!! really they cannot hold a sign and that got you on the news !!!! disgusting …. your teaching your kids to stomp their feet and cry when they don’t get their way ….

  20. CWO - D. Johnson says:

    Hey marine mom,

    Wake up…..! You …………..missed the whole point !
    Your insipid morose take , says it all… Unless “you” have been there..put a sock in it !
    It is not about the government convenience , it is about real people….! Cares and frustrations……..! This is not a rating system…..
    ! Get some help ! You need it !

    1. Marine Mom says:

      no i don’t think i do everything in life cannot be scheduled to the most convenient time for everyone she missed the point and so did YOU he is home safe and sound be thankful and not gripe about what time he came in … and no I have not been their but my loved one has for 7 long months on the front lines with almost no communication so when we got the call it certainly did not matter what TIME was the most convenient for me … God bless him that he made it home safe and sound to his family that is all that matters.

  21. Marine Mom says:

    Very well said .. I agree whole heartedly … thank you, your family and most of all your husband for his sacrafice and his service to his country .. God Bless

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