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Above: Spc. E4 Jalen Swanson of Wenona walks between flags held by members of the Patriot Guard at the Peoria airport as he returned Wednesday afternoon following a nine-month tour of duty in Afghanistan. Submitted photo
WENONA — Family members, local emergency crews, neighbors and members of the Patriot Guard made a homecoming extra special Wednesday evening for Wenona soldier.
U.S. Army Spc. E4 Jalen Swanson of Military Police returned from a nine-month tour of duty in Afghanistan to Fort Bliss, Texas in November. Since then, he had been looking forward to flying back home this week along with his younger brother, 2012 Fieldcrest graduate Riley, who he said also plans to join the military and had come to visit him in Texas.
Jalen was surprised by the reception he got after the connecting flight from Chicago to Peoria landed and he went through the terminal to a warm welcome including flags and a Peoria TV news camera crew.
“I had no idea what was going on,” he said of his reaction when he was greeted by a line of Patriot Guard flag bearers. “They greeted me and welcomed me home.” In Wenona, the 2010 Fieldcrest High School graduate was greeted by townspeople, two squad cars, more Patriot Guard members and a fire truck. From there, he was treated to a reception and dinner at Wenona’s American Legion post.
Swanson said, while in Afghanistan, he participated in a lot of dismounted missions, and when not walking, he was driving or riding on patrol. In addition, the military police helped the Afghan national police with their duties and training. He plans to attend community college classes while still on military duty this winter and may consider a longer career in the Army.
He is the son of Darren and Judy Swanson of Wenona. In high school, he was involved in baseball and football at Fieldcrest and hockey for Peoria Notre Dame.
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