Jul 7, 2011 3:04 AM by Ariel Wesler

Local marine returns home from Afghanistan

Lance Corporal Shane Louk arrived to hugs, kisses, and cheers at the San Luis Obispo Airport Wednesday night. The 23-year-old marine from Cambria returned home after 8 months in Afghanistan, where he served as a machine gunner.

"They said somebody has a big welcoming on the plane and I didn't know who it was about and then they started asking, who's the serviceman here and I figured it must be a bunch of guys with flags and then it was," Shane said.

He was greeted by his wife Dakota, friends, and even complete strangers. He added his name to the list of local troops who all experienced similar energetic welcomes. Then, he was led outside through a tunnel of flags.

"There's a lot of people. A lot of faces I don't even know and it's a big honor to be out there," Shane said.

His family lives in North Carolina.

"To have this many people to support him, since his family couldn't be here is amazing," said Dakota Louk, Shane's wife.

The American Legion and Welcome Home Troops organize homecomings for many of the local men and woman who return from overseas.

"We throw out an email. We put it on Facebook and people they just call nonstop. Everybody wants to be involved with this," said Cheryl Tolan, who runs Welcome Home Troops.

"Being Vietnam era veterans, we did not get welcome homes like we're trying to give these guys today," said Glenn Donaldson with the American Legion.

And the "thank you's" didn't stop at the airport.

"We're gonna take him down 101 and give him a group hug when he gets home," Donaldson said.

Organizers say it's the least they can do for those who give so much of themselves to protect us all.

"We want them to know that we appreciate their sacrifice to our country," Tolan said.

Welcome Home Troops has greeted about 100 soldiers from across the Central Coast since the group started organizing the homecomings last September.


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