U.S. Army Private Christopher Dorn returned from Afghanistan Friday afternoon for a brief 15-day break for the first time since he left last May.
The 21-year-old Medford man was welcomed home by his parents, Tom and Dawn Melchiona, friends, family members and others at Long Island MacArthur Airport.
Dorn said he was more excited than anything to be home. When asked if he was looking forward to anything in particular, he said it was pretty simple.
“Put on a pair of shorts and flip flops and do absolutely nothing,” Dorn said.
The patriotic scene at the airport was part of the Town of Islip's “Hometown Hero Welcome" program, which was spearheaded in 2009 by Islip Deputy Supervisor Gene Parrington, a decorated Vietnam-era Marine.
Dorn had been in Afghanistan since May 16, and said that life there has been a learning experience.
“It made me realize how many things people take for granted here, when people there are living on absolutely nothing,” said Dorn, a 2008 St. Anthony's High School graduate.
The crowd at MacArthur was a bit lighter than expected for Dorn's return as a last minute flight change put him on the ground hours earlier than anticipated, but that didn't take away from the warm welcome he received. As he passed through the security gates, he was applauded by people and workers in the terminal and walked toward a crowd holding three American flags and posters welcoming him home.
Dorn was presented a citation from the Town of Islip by Sgt. Lisa Gleason shortly after he walked through security.
Tom Melchiona told his son that he had grown up so much in the time that he was gone.
“When he left he was only 20, and now he’s 21 and he’s a man now,” Melchiona said.
While his son said he plans to relax, the father said that they have a packed itinerary that includes fishing, seeing a Yankee baseball game and attending a Giants football game where he will be on the field pre-game.
When his son is away, Tom said that he and Dawn correspond with Dorn about once a week.
Welcome ceremonies for active military members can be set up on the airport’s website.
See the media gallery for highlights of Private Dorn's arrival and welcome.