Six months ago, 20-year-old Wes Gunn left for Iraq a Marine soldier. On Tuesday, he returned to his hometown of Lubbock, a 21-year-old war hero. And Corporal Gunn is proud to have fought for our country, but he's also extremely happy to be home.
Corporal Wes Gunn walked out of the Delta Airlines terminal and right into his mother's arms. A reunion words could hardly describe. "It's great to be home. Six months over there. You miss the U.S. a lot," says Gunn.
After spending a half a year in Iraq, Gunn returned home and was greeted by about 20 friends and family members at LIA. Including his mom, Debbie Hilburn, who you may recall watched the events of the war unfold with us last Spring.
"It's the most relief I've had in five months. We're happy, but I'll always be sad for those young men and women who didn't come home," says Hilburn.
Gunn's skin is now a golden brown. An unknowing passer by might think this was a college kid returning from a vacation. But, if that passer by caught a glimpse of Gunn's t-shirt, they wouldn't likely mistake him for anyone but a young soldier returning from battle.
"We really showed the Iraqi people what the American people are. Show'd them there's no better friend or no worse enemy than a U.S. Marine," says Gunn.
Gunn, a member of the U.S.'s First Marine Division, was on the front lines. "I was a machine gunner for commanding officer. Right on top of the Humvee. A lot of action," says Gunn.
He was involved in four major fire fights. At a reception in his honor, he showed us his personal pictures from the war. Here he's posing in one of Saddam's palaces. And Gunn says the road to Baghdad was indeed tough. The threat of chemical warfare stared them in the face every step of the way, literally. A reminder of that threat was mounted squarely on the front end of their fighting vehicle.
"We had pigeons mounted on the front end of the vehicle because of chemical warfare. So, if the pigeon dies, you know to put on your gas mask," Gunn says.
Since the major combat ended, Gunn says they've been rebuilding, giving humanitarian aid and teaching Iraqi police how to police their own. An amazing responsibility for someone who's still so young, but because of war, now wise beyond his years.
"I'd have rather been there than anywhere else at that time. But now it's good to be home," says Gunn.
Gunn estimates 80% of Iraqi's favored the American invasion and were supportive of U.S. and coalition forces. He says Iraqi children were constantly showering American soldiers with tea and other gifts.
Gunn is now back in Lubbock for three weeks. He returns to Camp Pendleton, California, July 20th.