“It’s a good day when the cops take you to the bar.”
Those were 23-year-old Marine Sgt. Merrill Healy’s first words as he arrived at a crowded surprise homecoming party at the Blarney Stone Pub in Oak Forest. Healy arrived back in town Friday after a seven-month deployment in Afghanistan and was escorted to the pub by a patriot guard motorcycle procession. Roughly 100 people showed up at the party.
“This is insanely awesome,” Healy said. “But when you get time, stop and think of what’s going on (overseas) and of all those who are not coming home and their families.”
Healy said it still hasn’t hit him that he’s home. “I’ve been so busy since I got back Friday,” Healy said.
Healy’s father, Merrill Healy Sr., of Plainfield, said words can’t express how proud he is of his son.
“There’s no limit to my love for him,” Healy Sr. said. “He fought, he did his job. He’s a blessing for this whole family.”
Healy’s mother, Barb Huiner, of Oak Forest, said her fearful nights are over.
“I was very scared at first,” Huiner said. “It was very emotional, but he had a satellite phone over there, I was able to talk to him quite often. I’m just so overwhelmed right now. He’s been gone since January.”
Sgt. Healy’s friend, Army Sgt. Chris Zeitz, 29, of Massachusetts, flew in for Healy’s homecoming, and said the two of them took an Arabic class together.
“I’m very proud of what he did,” Zeitz said. “I had a similar job to his, so I know how challenging it is.”
That job Zeitz is referring to is a linguistic analyst. Healy was a member of the Radio Battalion and would identify enemy activity. Healy was well trained in Arabic and Pashto (Afghanistan) languages.
“I love what I do,” Healy said. “But everyone needs to think about all the guys who aren’t coming back. I’m not deserving of this (recognition).”
Healy is a 2005 graduate of Oak Forest High School. He attended Moraine Valley Community College and began apprenticing as a carpenter before enlisting in the Marines in November 2006. Healy said he recently re-enlisted for another five years and will return to Camp LeJeune in North Carolina in two weeks.