Grateful Captain Ron MacLaren returns from Kuwait duty
The Vineyard welcomed Capt. Ron MacLaren home on Thursday, after an eight-month deployment in Kuwait. A color guard from the Island VFW, a row of Island emergency response vehicles and a crowd of relatives and well-wishers greeted Captain MacLaren at the Vineyard Haven ferry dock. As Captain MacLaren's car drove off the ferry, a member of the VFW began to play "God Bless America" on a brass trumpet. The color guard stood at attention, and the emergency vehicles' sirens sounded. It was a heartwarming reunion.
The returning veteran commanded the Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group Forward GOLF. He returns to his position as health director for the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah). Captain MacLaren answered some questions posed by The Times this week.
What were your responsibilities during your deployment?
I was the commander of approximately 700 sailors that were responsible for doing the customs mission in Kuwait. The main port for military equipment coming into Iraq in is in Kuwait, so we would check everything coming into that country. Also we were responsible for everyone and everything coming back home to the States. We conducted the customs screening process and made sure that nothing coming back to the country, including solders and their stuff, contained anything harmful along with it, like agricultural pests or diseases.
What did you think of the welcome home you received?
It was a fantastic experience. I wasn't really expecting anything. I was just doing my job. I thought I was a pretty tough guy, but shaking hands with the veterans and the color guard was very touching. I was very moved.
Your thoughts about the war? Have they changed during your deployment?
My outlook hasn't really changed. I think we were doing our jobs and doing what we were ordered to do, so we did it. That's what the military is all about. We stay out of the politics of it.
Was there anything that surprised you during your deployment?
When I would go up to Iraq to see my sailors, I was surprised by what a great job everyone is doing. While there is still violence in Iraq, I was amazed by the lack of violence I saw; lack of gunfire and mortar attacks everywhere I went. I think the news picks up on that kind of stuff, but there are many places within Iraq that are very stable. I was surprised how stable things really were. Not once while I was up there was I fired upon or attacked.
Photo by Bettina Washington
Was there anything you just had to do when you got back to the Island?
I was really looking forward to Friday night lobster rolls at Grace Episcopal Church in Vineyard Haven. Unfortunately, I waited too long, and they were sold out. So, this week, I will be showing up early.
Is there anything you would like to say to the Vineyard community?
The Vineyard community was fantastic. I received a lot of care packages from the Island. At times, I received so much stuff that I would share it with all my sailors. It was very heartwarming to get things from the Island but also from all over the country. It was so nice to receive a card from a third-grader thanking us for being over there. We were amazed to get those cards from people who don't even know us. I appreciate and thank everyone for their support, not only for me, but for everyone over there. It has definitely been heart-warming.
I tell everyone I was just like one of those Islanders who goes away for the winter, and now I'm back to enjoy the summer.