Island soldier celebrates homecoming from Iraq
Army Staff Sgt. Randy Dull stepped off a plane at Martha's Vineyard Airport yesterday morning to the cheers and applause of friends, family, and veterans, glad to be home for a visit after a 15-month tour in Iraq.
Sergeant Dull said arriving home for July 4th is "perfect timing - it couldn't have been better."
When a small Nantucket Airlines plane touched down at 10:35 am and taxied to the gate under a gushing arc of water shot skyward by two airport fire trucks, it was obvious it wasn't just any flight.
He walked across the airport tarmac with sirens sounding from a West Tisbury police vehicle. His sister, Jeannette Andrews of Edgartown, held a sign decorated in red, white, and blue that read, "Welcome Home, Red," a nickname for her older brother who has red hair like hers.
This homecoming was easier than one in December when he arrived home to recuperate after being injured in a Humvee that was hit by a roadside bomb.
His aunt Lela Gilkes gave him a big hug, as did friends Lindsay Lamana, Chele and Sarah Reekie, and brother-in-law David Andrews. West Tisbury Police Chief Beth Toomey, who coordinated the homecoming event, added her congratulations.
American Legion Post #257 provided a color-guard which included Dukes County Veterans Agent Jo Ann Murphy, Bob Falkenburg, Stan Mercer, Mike Fontes, Jim Dorsey, and Gene DeFelice.
Michael Brown, Sgt. Dull's best friend since they met in 5th grade at Edgartown School, held his 5-year-old son Joshua's hand while they waited their turn in the welcoming line. At first Joshua hung back shyly, but then he greeted his godfather with a big grin and a high-five. Several strangers who happened to be at the airport came over to welcome and thank Sergeant Dull for his service as well.
Photo by Ralph Stewart
Sergeant Dull enlisted in the Army after graduating from the regional high school in 2000. After a tour in Kosovo, he served two tours in Iraq, for a total of about two years.
This time around, Sergeant Dull was stationed with the 23rd Infantry Branch in a mini-base in the center of Iraq. "We provided security, while living out with the local nationalists on coalition outposts," he said. "By living and interacting with them, we were able to build a relationship with the populace, so they are not as afraid of us as they are when we just drive in, do a mission, and leave."
He left Kuwait the second week of June and underwent a mandatory six-day reintegration process to ease the readjustment process. Sergeant Dull said he thinks it will take some time before he loses the feeling of being edgy and high-strung. Noises and objects by the side of the road still startle him.
"I'm still getting used to not carrying a weapon," the sergeant said. He also has to readjust to driving at lower speeds. In Iraq, everyone drives at high speed as a defense against remotely detonated explosives, Sergeant Dull said.
After eight years in the Army, Sergeant Dull said he plans to get out in September and is considering a career in law enforcement. Depending on job opportunities, he said he would like to be on the Island or in eastern Massachusetts.
Sergeant Dull and his sister have three other siblings who live in Utah, Texas, and Maryland.