On his way home for the first time in about a year and a half, Marine Lance Corporal Patrick O’Brien’s mother told him to put on his uniform.
O’Brien didn’t know why, but put on his uniform and after getting off the Palisades Parkway, a police escort from the Orangetown Police Department led him to his house on Holt Drive in Pearl River, along with the Blue Knights Chapter 18 motorcycle club. There, O’Brien was greeted by family, friends, the Pearl River Fire Department and many others welcoming him home for the first time since he enlisted in the Marines back in June of 2010.
“It’s overwhelming,” said O’Brien, 23. “I don’t even know what to think, I’m still processing it. It’s so much. It’s unbelievable, it really is.”
O’Brien has already served in Afghanistan and when he left was stationed in Hawaii, where he will return after being home for about four weeks. As he was greeting and hugging all those that came out to welcome him home, he appeared quiet cold, rubbing his hands together to try and warm up.
“He’s been in Hawaii and Afghanistan, where it’s like 140 degrees every day,” said Teresa Hartey, O’Brien’s mother. “His blood isn’t used to this cold.”
The police blocked off a section in front of O’Brien’s house on Holt Drive so friends and family could wait outside for him, waving tiny American flags and holding up signs welcoming him home.
O’Brien said enlisting was something he always thought about doing, and finally decided to after graduating from Rockland Community College. His mother said it’s something he talked about from the time he was about 12-years-old, and was surprised he didn’t enlist right after high school.
While home, O’Brien said he plans to “just relax and see my family and friends. I’m not trying to plan out too much.”
Hartey said she first thought about the event back in October.
"(Planning) really got full-fledged about two weeks ago," Hartey said. "That’s when I sent out the invitation on Facebook to all of Patrick’s friends and my friends, and requested they be here.”
She added that she was overwhelmed to see everyone come out to support her son.
Kevin Sheehan was one of a large group of O’Brien’s friends to come out and welcome home their friend. Sheehan has been friends with O’Brien since they were about 2-years-old, and said they all wanted to show their appreciation for all the Marines do, but even more, wanted to show their appreciation to their friend.
“The reason we do this is to make sure he knows he has something to come home to,” he said.