U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jon Adams, a Knighsten resident and Liberty High School grad, returned from his most recent deployment to Afghanistan last month. He was greeted at the airport and escorted home by the Warrior Watch Riders, just like dozens of other service members in recent years.
The appreciative Adams figured the celebration ended as the last bike roared out of sight. He was wrong. On Sunday, as he enjoyed dinner with family and friends at a local restaurant, the roar returned, louder than before.
Nearly three dozen motorcycles, emergency vehicles and police cruisers rolled in, horns and music blaring, to surprise Adams and whisk him away – in a limousine – to the Antioch VFW Hall. Waiting there were more than 100 grinning, flag-waving patriots, including Lt. Col. Bill Carter and Maj. Eric Sharyer.
The two officers had a special reason for attending. Wounded by an improvised explosive device last year, Adams had subsequently returned home on emergency leave and missed the ceremony at which his Purple Heart medal was to be presented.
“They just gave his medal to someone else and hoped they’d give it to him,” said mother Rose Adams. “It’s probably in the bottom of someone’s backpack right now.”
That wasn’t good enough for Rose, who enlisted the aid of Gold Star Father Kevin Graves to set things straight.
And so on Sunday, after Adams slipped into his dress uniform (which was waiting for him at the hall) the Army made things right, conducting an official ceremony and adding the Purple Heart to a chest already covered with decorations for achievement, marksmanship, battle experience, recruiting excellence and more.
Adams was saluted by proclamations from state and county representatives, given challenge coins from several service member support groups and veterans’ motorcycle organizations, and got hugs from everyone in attendance. His sister Amanda sang a touching rendition of Laura Story’s song “Blessings” to express her gratitude at her brother’s safe return.
Then it was Adams’ turn with the mic.
“It’s Mom’s birthday,” a grinning Adams told the assembled group. “They told me we were going to meet for dinner and celebrate. Well, you’re all liars.”
Although he wasn’t especially fond of putting on his dress uniform again, Adams said it was worth it, and called the assembly “amazing.” He noted that such attention isn’t something troops expect; they just do their missions, try to stay alive, and return.
“We don’t expect much when we get back,” he said. “We just want to be home.”
Adams joined the Army in response to 9/11 and credited his family for some of his immediate success. “Basic training was a joke,” he said. “I got yelled at way more at home.”
Adams served as a sniper with the 101st Airborne Division’s 5th Special Forces group. He has also served with the 14th Psychological Operations Battalion and the Army’s Fresno Recruiting Battalion. As of March 4, he will be on reserve status as he completes his bachelor’s degree in psychology and begins a career in law enforcement. He is adamant that the future will not include combat tours.
“My hats off to anyone who goes over there and has even one rough tour,” he said. Since joining in 2003, he’s spent the equivalent of six tours overseas, and doesn’t care for the increasing restrictions placed on soldiers trying to win a war. “I’ve had plenty of rough tours, and I’m done. I will not be deployed back to the war again.”
Meanwhile, he’ll enjoy catching up on the time missed with his wife Mari, sons Tyler, 14, and Zach, 11, and his daughter Aurora, 8. And he’ll enjoy not be required to wear his dress uniform.
“I hate dressing up,” he said. “I’d rather be in the field, sweating, bleeding and stinking.”
For photo highlights of the festivities, click here.