I like a good batch of chicken wings as much as the next person. Whenever I visit my hometown, at some point we always go out to enjoy a slice of pizza and good old Buffalo wings.

There is just something about returning to a familiar restaurant after being gone for a while that gives you a sense of nostalgia. Whether it be from the mixture of smells or the taste of the food, the experience always evokes powerful memories.

For all of the brave men and women who choose to serve overseas in the military, I cannot image how refreshing and pleasant returning home must be. I also cannot blame them for wanting to visit all of their old haunts in order to conjure up all of those sentimental feelings from years ago.

So when Colten Walters returned to his Pomeroy home in Southeastern Ohio, his only plans were to go to Fox’s Pizza Den to enjoy his favorite batch of wings. However, the Pomeroy community had much more grandiose plans for his arrival.

Serving as a tank pilot in Kuwait, Walters was scheduled to be home for two weeks before returning to duty. Joining him was fellow soldier and friend, Spencer Altfilish, who wanted to spend time with his friend off-duty but normally calls Texas home.

As they rode through Pomeroy on a firetruck, they saw that dozens of people had lined the street to welcome Walters and Altfilish and to honor them for their service. About the surprise reception, Walters said, “I’m just overwhelmed. It’s unexpected, but I appreciate it a lot.”

It all started with a Facebook post from family friend Lee Roberts on April 4, asking people to come out with signs to welcome the two soldiers. It quickly grew, with the fire department volunteering to drive them through town on one truck while stationing the ladder truck downtown with the flag flying above everyone.

“Ok we have 2 soldiers returning … today!!!,” wrote Roberts. “We are from a small town with big hearts let’s show them how proud we are of them for fighting for our freedom!!!”
Around 7:30 that evening, the two heroes rode through town to cheers, clapping, and salutes.”We just thought it would be nice to do something with people coming out,” Roberts said. “It just grew bigger than what we thought.”

Similarly, Altfilish was impressed by how much Walters means to his community, that so many people would come out to greet him. It was also encouraging for him to see the support the troops have “back home.”

“You can tell everyone is a patriot. They all care about their country and appreciate what we do,” Altfish said of his Meigs County welcome. “It just makes me feel that much better knowing we are making other people proud.”

At the end of the parade, Fox’s Pizza Den was waiting for Altfilish and Walters, so they were able to enjoy the food they originally set out to obtain in addition to the camaraderie of family and friends. While they only get two weeks to be home, it was yet another reminder to them why they chose to serve in the first place.