Los Angeles Daily News (CA)
Dennis McCarthy: War vet returns home to 50 grandfathers
Posted: 05/24/2010 03:34:15 PM PDT
Updated: 05/24/2010 03:43:41 PM PDT
Corporal Rebekah Nelson-Dedafoe, right, presents an American flag previously flown over the United States Headquarters in Iraq, to American Legion Commander, Joe Lazano. Legion members Gene Denny and George Herczak, view the presentation. ( Photo by Dave Denny)
It was like have 50 grandfathers sitting at home worrying about you. Counting off the days until you made it home safely from a 10-month tour of duty in Iraq.
Marine Cpl. Rebekah Dedafoe had never met the members of American Legion Post 581 in San Fernando before she went to Iraq in 2009, but she had become one of them.
Her dad, Pastor Jeffrey Nelson of Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Granada Hills, wrote her a letter telling his daughter what the guys from the local American Legion post wanted to do - make her their first woman member.
Was that okay with her, Nelson asked? Absolutely, Rebekah said. She'd be honored.
"We took a photo of her in uniform and put it up on the post wall," Gene Denney says. "Everytime we walked by it, we gave her a salute. She was our only member on active duty.
"We're all World War II and Korean War guys, 50 years or more her senior. Old enough to be her grandfather. We were proud that she was a member of our post.
Proud and worried everytime news reports flashed across their television screens saying there were more US casualties in Iraq today.
Rebekah's 50 grandfathers sat at home praying she wasn't one of them.
"It meant so much to me knowing they were back home thinking of me, praying I'd stay safe," she said Saturday in the parking lot of her dad's church.
"I can't wait to meet and thank them."
In a framed case, Rebekah carried one of the last American flags to fly over Camp Al Taqqudum (cq) in the Al Ambar Province of Iraq where she was stationed for 10 months.
The men from American Legion Post 581 gathered around her Saturday as she presented the flag to the post's commander Joe Lozano.
"It's my honor to bring home this flag for you," Rebekah said.
Joe's own granddaughter did two tours of duty in Iraq, so he knew the feeling of welcoming back family.
"Thank you," he said, accepting the flag. "It's going up on the wall in a place of honor, right next to your picture. Welcome home."
With that, Rebekah's grandfathers from American Legion Post 581 began to applaud - the relieved looks on their faces saying the same thing.
She's back. She's safe.
Standing off to the side, Pastor Nelson smiled as the men took turns giving his daughter a hug.
"I can't understand it," he said. "I come from a long line of cowards. I don't know what happened to her."
Next week, Rebeckah and her husband, Cpl. Christopher Dedafoe, report back to duty. She returns to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, while Chris returns to San Diego where he is stationed.