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Jan 10, 2018 1:04 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Army Veteran Gets First Welcome Home In 21 Years

Andrew Parsells kisses his wife, Nicholle and holds his daughter Adeline at a surprise homecoming celebration at the American Legion Hand-Aldrich Post 924 in Hampton Bays on Tuesday afternoon. DANA SHAW
Jan 10, 2018 1:04 PM

“We gather this afternoon for the happy task of welcoming home a veteran, one of our comrades in honor,” Army Navy veteran Charles Shields said of the return of U.S. Army Sergeant Andrew Parsells at a surprise homecoming celebration and luncheon at the American Legion Hand-Aldrich Post 924 in Hampton Bays on Tuesday afternoon.

“We thank him for his many years of service on behalf of the United States of America and for the interest of peace and justice.”

Sgt. Parsells returned home to Hampton Bays on Tuesday morning after serving nine months in Kuwait. It was the first time he saw his wife, Nicholle, since their makeshift four-day honeymoon in Germany, prior to his deployment.

“You go from working seven days a week and 18 hours a day to freedom,” the 40-year-old Army sergeant said on Tuesday afternoon while enjoying a cold beer. “To be able to get in your car and drive around, to go to the store … it’s an adjustment.”

Serving his first tour as a private in Iraq from 2003 to 2004 and then in Afghanistan from 2011 to 2012, Mr. Parsells has served a total of 21 years in the Army, following in his father Jerome’s footsteps. Jerome Parsells served in Korea as a sergeant as well.

“I wanted to be like dad,” Sgt. Parsells said.

Tuesday’s luncheon at the Ponquogue Avenue post in Hampton Bays was Mr. Parsells’s first welcome home celebration in more than two decades.

“The smile on his face said it all,” Ms. Parsells said as she hugged her husband tight. “It was emotional for me when I went to pick him up because it was one step closer to him coming home.”

Christopher Ramos, commander of Post 924 and a U.S. Army veteran, said on Tuesday that although none of the 167 members of the Hampton Bays post knew Mr. Parsells personally, they were happy to welcome him home and thank him for his service.

“That is the whole purpose of the American Legion,” the 62-year-old commander said as he cracked open a beer. “You’re family [and] we take care of our own. It’s an honor that gives you goosebumps.”

Richard Steiber, the former commander of Post 924 and a U.S. Navy veteran who served in Japan for 17 years, explained that he had met Ms. Parsells at the Hampton Bays transfer station on Jackson Avenue, struggling to get a tarp full of leaves out of her GMC Acadia. After offering a helping hand, he noticed a bumper sticker that read “Army Wife” and his interest was piqued. Shortly after learning that Ms. Parsells was expecting her husband to return home to Hampton Bays in January, after previously living in Nanuet, Mr. Steiber offered to throw his comrade in arms a welcome home celebration.

“He had never had a welcome home before, and that’s not right. Everyone that has one of these has been there,” Mr. Steiber said, pointing to his hat. “For us to be able to welcome him home, it makes us feel good and makes him feel appreciated.”

Ms. Parsells could not keep a smile off her face as she made up for lost time, leaving her husband’s side only to grab a drink or a plate of food for one of her three children. Having been married just a few short weeks prior to her husband’s leave, she explained that it was an emotional time for both her and their three daughters: Skylar, Marleena and Adeline.

“It was stressful especially because it was our first year of marriage,” Ms. Parsells said as Marleena tugged on her shirt. “The kids haven’t seen him in so long, so for them it was harder.”

The youngest, Adeline, was only 8 months old when her father shipped off to Kuwait, so when Sgt. Parsells surprised her at Hampton Bays Elementary School on Tuesday afternoon, he was unsure how she would react. Ms. Parsells said she was ecstatic, taking to him as if no time had passed. “She wouldn’t let him put her down,” she said.

“You go from fierce fighter to laid-back dad and sometimes it’s quite hard,” Mr. Steiber said, knowing the struggle of getting re-accustomed to life as a husband and father firsthand. “He’s home now so what’s better than being home, being around friends, making some new friends, having a nice meal, and feeling appreciated.”

Sgt. Parsells doesn’t know how long his leave will last. He expects to be deployed again within the next two years. But for now, he will enjoy every minute he has with his family as both a husband and father.

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