On cue, the heavy fog that had blanketed the Island throughout the morning gave way to dazzling sun as Navy reservist Matt Bradley returned from a tour in Afghanistan to a rousing welcome from friends and family gathered at Martha’s Vineyard Airport Thursday afternoon, March 22.
“It’s good to be back in the United States, and very nice to be back home,” Mr. Bradley told The Times following his arrival. He added with a smile, “We weren’t living in the best of places.”
The small Cape Air plane touched down at 1:40 pm and taxied to the gate, passing under a gushing arc of water shot skyward by two airport fire trucks. It was immediately obvious to onlookers who were not part of the large welcoming crowd that it was not just any flight.
Mr. Bradley, a hospitalman second class recently assigned to active duty with the U.S. Marine Corps, stepped off the plane to the sounds of wailing sirens and honking horns from an assortment of emergency vehicles parked in a line on the tarmac. The cheering crowd that greeted him included many of his co-workers at the Oak Bluffs Ambulance Department, uniformed police officers, fire and ambulance personnel from every Island town and department, veterans, family and friends.
Dukes County director of veterans services Jo Ann Murphy stood by with a color guard and members from American Legion Post 257 in Vineyard Haven. Edson Rodgers played patriotic tunes on his bugle.
Mr. Bradley left the Vineyard last May for a year-long tour on active duty in Afghanistan. He served in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan where he performed security patrols and other missions.
His reserve battalion’s tour was cut short by a drawdown of troops in Afghanistan in December. He returned to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in California on December 29.
Mr. Bradley said he and other medics remained in California to help with medical clearances when the rest of the battalion returned to Camp Pendleton on February 11.
About three weeks ago, his brother Lukas from Los Angeles, sister Marah from Boulder, and brother Gabe from Martha’s Vineyard flew out to California for a reunion.
Last week, Mr. Bradley processed out of his reserve duties with the U.S. Marine Corps at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and with the Navy Reserves in Quincy. “I took five flights by the time I got home,” he said.
A graduate of Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School in 1996, Mr. Bradley joined the Naval reserves in 2003 and was assigned to the Marine Corps in 2004. Since he had experience as an Oak Bluffs volunteer EMT, he said he was fast-tracked through training in the Navy. With study on his own, plus on-the-job training, he achieved certification as a paramedic about a year and a half ago.
On his first overseas tour in 2006-2007 Mr. Bradley served as an advisor with a police transition team that set up a police force in Al Anbar, the largest province in Iraq.
Mr. Bradley went back to work Friday with Oak Bluffs Emergency Medical Services. He has worked there 12 years.
However, Mr. Bradley noted his deployment has set him back. “I’ve got ten months of mail and tax papers to go through,” he said.
His parents are Fran and Daniel Bradley of West Tisbury. Ms. Bradley also works for Oak Bluffs Emergency Medical Services as an EMT basic.