When Sayville high school graduate and Army Private First Class Timothy Carey was deployed to Afghanistan last December, after nearly a year of training at Fort Benning and Fort Bliss, his unit was 30 soldiers strong.
Ten months later he is one of 17 survivors, as 13 fellow infantry soldiers had been killed in action.
So the 20-year-old's homecoming Wednesday night was extremely emotional for his parents, five siblings, high school buddies and community residents who were part of a 200-plus welcome-home contingent that met Carey after landing at Long Island MacArthur Airport about 11 p.m.
“We are just so excited to get him home,” his mother, Susan Carey Florio, told Patch in a phone interview hours before Carey landed back on familiar soil. “His unit lost the most soldiers in the shortest time frame and it’s been a long year for him,” she said.
It’s also been a long year for his family given that a death in a military unit temporarily shuts down communication with service personnel. The Carey family and friends primarily relied on Facebook postings to stay in touch with Carey.
“Whenever there was a death there’d be a blackout and we’d just have to wait to find out how he was,” explained Carey's mom.
The Carey family is not a military family by any means, but they’re learning to be one given their son’s enlistment and daughter Karyn’s enlistment in the Air Force. Karyn wasn’t able to be at the homecoming event as the 2009 Sayville high school graduate is stationed in Monterey, California in a two-year linguistics training program.
The homecoming welcome was a quickly put together event as the family wasn’t sure until Wednesday what flight Carey would be on after spending the previous 10 days at Fort Bliss in Texas. His mom and dad had flew out to Texas on his official arrival back on U.S. soil and they wanted him to have a big crowd waiting for when he made it home to Sayville.
The welcome home included a fire truck salute and motorcade ride home courtesy of West Sayville Fire Department and the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department. The crowd included members of the Blue Star Moms organization, the Patriots organization as well as local residents and his high school buddies.
“It was a truly amazing turnout and lots of love and
support,” Frank Florio told Patch in an email.
Earlier in the day Donna Johnson, of Country Flowers in West Sayville, did a special welcome home sign in her shop on Montauk Highway and a neighbor, Faith Vickers, placed red, white and blue ribbons, supplied by a local veteran’s group, on every mailbox on the family’s block.
Carey, who spent a year after high school physically training to join the Army, is a very well known face around Sayville, having worked at Cricket’s restaurant during high school. So it came as little surprise when he was asked what he wanted for his first supper at home.
“Cricket’s of course,” relayed his dad.