Here in small-town Middle America, the safe return of a local soldier is a big deal. We hang flags on street corners and nail "Welcome Home" signs on phone poles. Alert residents track our hometown hero's approach by cell phone, and by the time his or her motorcycle escort crosses the county line, we're lining the streets.
There were no parades when I came home from my first tour back in the '70s. No loudspeakers blasting "Anchors Aweigh," no motorcycle escorts, no speeches from the mayor.
Things were different back then. People just didn't understand the sacrifices we MUs were making in San Francisco.
Big Band rehearsals, sometimes as often as two a day. Showband trips with pit stops at California wineries. Bumpy cable car rides to clubs where Mose Allison was playing. Arduous evenings at the EM club where one of the trumpet players worked as a bartender.
Nope, they didn't shoot off fireworks when Frank Mullen came home. They must have thought a two-year tour at Navy Band San Francisco was some sort of extended party.