Town grateful for safe return

WILLIAMSBURG – A cacophony of car horns, fire engine sirens and residents’ cheers pierced the air, with dozens of cars lining Route 866 to greet Sgt. Allen Frye, who returned home Wednesday night from a yearlong tour in Afghanistan.

A procession of police cruisers and fire trucks started a half-hour late, around 7:30 p.m., but a crowd waited to welcome home Frye.

Nathan Brown, 9, and his mother, Kristy Clowson, who also is a veteran, braved the cold to show their support. Brown said his mother even helped him make a homemade sign, which featured a saluting stick figure.

Parents chatted amongst themselves as their children, carrying miniature American flags, chased each other around the St. Joseph Catholic Church parking lot in the dark. They cheered in anticipation every time a car passed by, thinking it was Frye.

One family in particular was determined to show their support for the military: the Edmundsons.

Spc. Chad Edmundson of Williamsburg was killed in May 2009 by an improvised explosive device while serving with the Army National Guard in Iraq. He was 20 years old.

The death rocked the borough. Two young women running Nic’s Grab ‘n Go Wednesday night admitted that to this day they can’t talk about Edmundson without getting goose bumps.

His grandmother, Donna Edmundson, said whenever she looks at men or women in the military, she cries. Their sacrifice means so much, she said.

“I debated on coming down here,” she said. “But I thought, ‘I have to come down. I have to come and give this kid a welcome home.'”

The procession passed by in a matter of seconds, and residents returned to their cars to make a short drive home and continue with their evening.

Many said they didn’t care how cold or dark it was or how long they had to wait. They wanted to take whatever time was necessary out of their day to show appreciation for Frye.

With tears in her eyes and clutching an American flag, Donna said the day she received news of her grandson’s death, all she could do was cry and scream. Knowing what it’s like for a loved one not to return alive, she said she was glad to be witness to a happier homecoming.

“We’ve shed many, many tears. And now whenever they come home alive, and in one piece, we’re grateful.”