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    Posted March 30, 2013 by
    Maricopa, Arizona

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    Operation Homecoming


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     mallardisme documented the return of 19-year-old Army Private First Class Coral Heazlit from Afghanistan on March 30 in Maricopa, Arizona. He says it was a well-publicized event, and the atmosphere was very emotional. 'Coral's dad had not seen his daughter in 15 months. Everyone I met, including media, was very teary-eyed when she was brought home. For her, I think the pure emotion was surprise and awe. She never expected the reception she was receiving,' he said.
    - Jareen, CNN iReport producer

    (Maricopa, Az 3-29-2013) 19 year old Army Private First Class Coral Heazlit returned home from a tour of duty in Afghanistan to a huge surprise homecoming on Friday afternoon.
    She knew something was up after she was picked up at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix by her mother, Wendy, and did not come straight home. She stopped at Maricopa Fire Department’s station 571 where she met her father, Bill, who had not seen her in 15 months. She was warmly greeted by firefighters and 2 members of the media. The fire department told her that they wanted to take her home in style in their ladder truck. She hopped in and proceeded home.
    What she saw next took her breath away.
    As she pulled into the community, she started seeing yellow ribbons and flags. She saw people waving at her in the fire truck. When they turned the corner to her house she saw neighbors, scouts, friends, relatives, public officials and just about every news station from the greater Phoenix area waiting to greet her. They carried “Welcome Home” banners and flags. The sirens on her truck wailed as the lights flashed. The Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts saluted her as she drove past.
    When she got out of the truck to screams from the crowd, she was hugged, kissed and thanked by people she knew and people she had never met. All in all the crowd was about 200 strong.
    Coral first moved to Maricopa, a city of 43,000, in 2009 with her parents. She graduated Maricopa High School in 2011. She went into the U. S. Army, where she got involved in the intelligence section and was deployed to Afghanistan in May 2012.
    While she turned to the Maricopa crowd to thank them for coming out, it was Maricopa that came out to thank her.


    Photos and text by Howard WaGGner/News of Maricopa

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