HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - A local group makes welcoming veterans as they return from war a top priority. About 30,000 veterans call Horry County home, and Operation Welcome Home makes sure they get the American homecoming they deserve.
Flags, leather jackets, motorcycles and posters are what you'll see at an Operation Welcome Home event. Kris "Turtle" Tourtellotte is the man in charge of that national non-profit he started in 1991.
"Before they even went to war I said to my wife, I said, if these guys go to war they're not going to come home like I did," Tourtellotte said.
Tourtellotte is a Vietnam vet and he said when he came home from war there wasn't much of a welcome home. It didn't help a returning combat soldier's morale, so he decided to do something about it. He put the first 'welcome home' group together for returning Gulf War soldiers and it's been around ever since.
In 2001 he moved to Myrtle Beach and Operation Welcome Home began welcoming dozens of soldiers a day as they returned to Horry County. As the Iraq war continues, the non-profit group has less soldiers to greet and less volunteers to do the welcoming. He says they need more support like in the early days of the war. But today they're excited to give soldier Tyler Kellogg a welcome home he deserves with American flags waving and presents you might not expect for a marine.
"I always thought you don't want to give a marine that just got back from combat roses and a flag…but they seem to like it," Tourtellotte said.
Kellogg, an army soldier, just finished his third tour in the Middle East. His welcome home is at 5 p.m. at Sky Fitness.