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Father’s Day gift a soldier’s homecoming

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Updated: July 19, 2012 6:19AM



Father’s Day couldn’t get any better for Oak Lawn resident William Harr.

It’s because he got to hug his only son, Marine Lance Crpl. Joseph R. Harr, for the first time since he left for Afghanistan seven months ago.

Every day since, William has woken up and fallen asleep worrying about him.

“I’m so blessed to have my son Joe come home for Father’s Day,” said William, 52. “I could never top this. It’s indescribable and overwhelming.”

Joseph, 20, was stationed in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand Province, where he served in the 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion as a scout. He left for his combat tour Oct. 31 and returned May 23 to Camp Pendleton in San Diego.

His family, including William, his mother, Susan Sommerville, and his two sisters, Jessica Harr and Alexis Harr, met him at the terminal at Midway Airport.

“At first I said, ‘Happy Father’s Day,’ to my dad,” Joseph said.

Joseph got a full hero’s homecoming from the moment his plane touched down. The pilot let him leave the airplane first, and a USO officer that led him and his family to the baggage claim let everyone know in a booming voice that he was home from an overseas tour.

The Oak Lawn and Burbank fire and police departments gave him an escort to his house in the 9100 block of South Sproat Avenue in Oak Lawn.

As William drove, Joseph sat shotgun in a bright red 1962 Corvette Roadster convertible two-seater as cheering crowds lined the streets and welcomed him home. Motorcycle riders from the veteran support groups Soldiers Guardian Angels and Warriors’ Watch Riders flanked his escort.

U.S. flags were planted in the ground leading up to his home. He received a loud ovation when he stepped out of his father’s car to address the crowd.

“Thank you to those who came out,” Joseph said. “I’m ready for a beer.”

Joseph’s grandfather, Joseph Harr, said his grandson’s return was the ultimate Father’s Day gift for him, too.

“What a Father’s Day gift,” he said. “He’s a good young man, I’ll tell you that. I’m not saying that just because he’s my grandson, but because he’s respected by everyone.”

Sommerville said she was relieved that her son was safe at home. She said the anxiety over Joseph’s deployment was “always there.”

“It’s a part of your life,” she said. “You just hope the phone doesn’t ring at the wrong time of day.”

Joseph enlisted in the military in 2010, two weeks after graduating Oak Lawn Community High School. He has 23 days until he has to report back to Camp Pendleton for training.

For as long as he’s home, William said his son gets to drive the Corvette. He also said he plans to take him to two White Sox games and a Jimmy Buffett concert.

“Time is so much more precious now,” William said.



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