Sailor receives welcome home in Mokena
By Steve Metsch firstname.lastname@example.org July 14, 2013 8:56PM
Updated: August 16, 2013 6:35AM
After seven long years serving his country — including 16 months on the deadly front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan — Tim Kaplan is home in Mokena.
Riding on — of all things — an olive green Army truck, the Navy corpsman led a jubilant parade of veterans on motorcycles Sunday through the streets of Mokena to the Aurelio’s pizza parlor owned by his father, Jay Kaplan, for his welcome -home party.
It was hot in the July sun, but nowhere near as hot as it sometimes was during his stay overseas, which ended in 2012. He’s been stationed at Camp Pendleton in San Diego since then.
Glancing around at the 150 or so well-wishers who gathered outside the restaurant, 19836 S. Wolf Road, dressed in pristine white, his wife, Alisha, and daughter, Lily, by his side, Kaplan, 25, smiled broadly and waved at well-wishers, 32 of whom held American flags flanking Wolf Road as the procession arrived.
“This is incredible, amazing. It’s good to be home,” Kaplan said moments later.
It sure beats the “hell” he lived through life in Iraq and Afghanistan.
To cope with the knowledge that bullets were intended for him and his comrades, he tried to not dwell on the constant danger.
“You don’t think about it. You just go on with your day. You do what you have to do. You just hope nobody gets hit,” he said.
Jeremy Kaplan, one of his two younger brothers, flew to San Diego on Wednesday night so he could fly home Saturday night with Tim.
“He’s one of my heroes. I’m happy to have him back home for good,” said Jeremy, 22.
Jeremy said “it’s rough” knowing your brother is in harm’s way.
“It’s mind-boggling sometimes. You don’t know where they are or what they’re doing. They can only tell you so much,” Jeremy said.
Army veteran John Cap, of Frankfort Square, was among the well-wishers. His son, Bruno, had Kaplan autograph a Marine flag.
“He’s a hero. He saw some heavy action. We’re here to honor him and his service,” John Cap said.
Kaplan plans to return to school and become a physician’s assistant. That’s basically what he did on the front lines, patching up wounded Marines he served beside.
Alisha called Sunday “exciting” and is “at peace” that her husband finally is home.
She’s expecting their second child, another girl, in September, and was thrilled the community showed its support with a large turnout Sunday.
A beaming Jay Kaplan said he’s poud of his eldest son, although he did his best to prevent that from happening.
“He was 17 and I said, ‘Are you an idiot? There are all kinds of wars going on.’ But he said, ‘This is what I need to do,’ and he left (for the Navy) two months after graduating from Lincoln-Way Central High School,” Jay said.
He did succeed in preventing his son from joining the Marines.
“So he became a corpman in the Navy, which travels with the Marines. He still got his way,” Jay said with a laugh.
“Seven years is a long time. I couldn’t be prouder of him serving our country,” Jay said. “This is about our freedoms. This is what it’s all about. He deserves this.”