Home News Local news National Guard Soldier Returns to Warm V.I. Welcome

National Guard Soldier Returns to Warm V.I. Welcome


August 5, 2005 – Dennis A. Howell came home Thursday to cheers, hugs and tears after being deployed to Afghanistan since June 2004. As the plane touched down on the tarmac at about 3:30 p.m., a large crowd of friends, family, fellow guardsmen and well-wishers were gathered at the gate of the Henry E. Rohlsen airport in St. Croix.
They brought handmade signs and bunches of red, white and blue balloons that said "Welcome Home" and "We Missed You"! The crowd waited in anticipation, searching debarking passengers' faces to see the one they have not seen in over a year. When Howell finally appeared, cheers rose from the crowd. A few shouted, "Hip, Hip Hooray!"
With a big smile and open arms, Howell began greeting his loved ones.
There were hugs for everyone. Howell greeted each person in the crowd with warm embraces. Some he held longer than others — his wife, his mother and his children. For his National Guard brothers and sisters, there were hugs and slaps on the backs, a whispered word in their ears, hearty handshakes and long looks. A distinguished and decorated soldier had come safely home from war.
Army Guardsman Command Warrant Officer Five Howell, a 1973 graduate of St. Croix Central High School, enlisted in the Army the same year and joined the V.I. National Guard three years later in 1976. He rose through the ranks to become the first Army officer given the title of Command Warrant Officer.
"The Command Warrant Officer is home," Adj. Gen. Eddy Charles said at a ceremony held at the airport hospitality room near the baggage carousel. Charles explained that Howell volunteered to go to a remote area of Afghanistan, and as a result, encountered situations where combat fighting was necessary. Charles pinned the Bronze Star Medal and the Combat Action Badge on Howell. The Bronze Medal is given to a soldier who has distinguished himself or herself by heroic or meritorious achievement or service, in connection with military operations against an armed enemy. The Combat Action Badge is given to a soldier who engages or is engaged by the enemy during combat operations.
"We are going to have to talk about this," his wife, Deborah Howell, who also serves with the V.I. National Guard as a corporal, said, referring to Howell's combat medals. "He is supposed to be in administration."
In his remarks, St. Croix Administrator Gregory Francis said, "Never has there been a greater need for people of leadership.'' Addressing Howell he said, "You have demonstrated you ability for leadership."
Howell thanked the people who readied him for combat and those who looked after his family while he was away. "Thank you, thank you, thank, thank you," Howell said. "For the outpouring of support and for the Christmas package I received in April."
Howell has five children: Duane, Dwayne, Dwight, Leslie and Sherrilyn.
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