Sgt. Pete Forend, back home
Sgt. 1st Class Pete Forend thought he could keep his homecoming from Kuwait under wraps. With his car reservation on the Steamship Authority made in his fiancé Barbara Flanders's name, he figured he could slip back onto the Island without much fanfare.
But as he and Ms. Flanders drove off the ferry at 11:30 am last Friday, the sound of fire engine and police sirens, honking horns, and an ecstatic cheering crowd quickly put that idea to rest.
A color guard of local veterans stood at attention as Sgt. Forend's children and two grandchildren swarmed around him. Bruna, his four-year-old Jack Russell terrier, seemed dazed by all the fuss, but perked up as soon as she saw her master's face.
Sergeant Forend gives a wave to the many friends and family members who turned out to greet him last Friday. Photos by Ralph Stewart
The sergeant's children, Kelsey, who attends paramedic school, Jaime, a freshman at the regional high school, and sons Josh and John, were on hand to greet him, as well as his brother Tom and his wife Judy. The sergeant's grandchildren, Skylah, age 11, and Josh, age 7, who are the children of his son Josh and his wife Stacey, provided lots of hugs.
Daughter Jaime, a freshman at the regional high school, was in Falmouth that morning.
Assigned to the Army National Guard's 3rd-126th Aviation, Blackhawk helicopter unit, out of Camp Edwards, Calif., Sgt. Forend served as a fire chief for the unit. A pretty good fit, considering his experience on the Island as the deputy chief of the Oak Bluffs' Fire Department.
He trained state-side for a few months at Fort Dix before heading to where his unit was based in Kuwait, about 20 miles from the border of Iraq where he said he did end up spending quite a bit of time.
Josh Forend, age 7, is all smiles as he sticks close to his grandfather, Sergeant Forend.
"Over there, I was the non-commissioned officer in charge (NCOIC)," he explained. "I was in charge of a movement control team, which shipped vital parts needed for aircraft and people up to Iraq." The unit also transported congressmen, senators, and high-ranking military personnel through Kuwait and Iraq.
One of his best experiences involved accompanying his unit's vehicles in transport on board a super cargo Navy ship across the Atlantic and through the Suez Canal.
Although Sgt. Forend adapted well and the year he was gone seemed to go fast, he said the worst part was missing 15 months out of his family's lives. Although he missed his daughter Jaime's 8th grade graduation, he said his daughter Jessica will graduate early from high school in January, and he is grateful he will be home to enjoy it.
"My fiancé, Barbara, took care of everything while I was gone," he said, including taking care of Bruna. "She did a great job and was very strong." Engaged for two years, the couple lives in Vineyard Haven.
On Monday, Sgt. Forend headed to the Oak Bluffs Fire Department where he has worked for about 23 years to meet with the chief and get reinstated. "One of my first priorities was to get back with my guys," he said.
He served as the captain of the rescue truck for many years, and is proud his sons followed in his footsteps and both work on it now.
Sgt. Forend has worked at Bruno's, a trash hauling business, almost since it started, which explains where his dog got her name. "I had a lot of fun making Bruno's grow," he said. "I missed it last year." His oldest son Josh also works at Bruno's.
Sgt. Forend spent three years on active duty in the U.S. Army and then joined the Army National Guard, serving a total of 24 years.
Although he could retire at any time, he is up for promotion to 1st Sergeant, which would mean a commitment of two more years. However, his unit will not be deployed again for five years, so he would not likely be sent overseas again. "I'd be taking on a new challenge and a new position if I stay in, and that's something I would enjoy," Sgt. Forend said.