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A large American flag hung from the fire truck’s ladder near the highway as it fluttered in the breeze and waved its welcome.
School children chanted, “USA! USA! USA!” and flag-waving crowds of more than 100 people lined the roadway.
As onlookers squinted to see in the sunlight, dots of bright orange, blue, purple and black came into focus. Seven motorcycles representing the Legion Riders could be seen escorting a silver car down the street.
He was home.
Major Chad Boggs of Tilden returned home to a hero’s welcome last Thursday after his six- month deployment in the Middle East.
“As I drove into Tilden, I felt the love of not only my immediate family with me, but my extended family of the Tilden community celebrating my return as well,” he said.
Boggs, who also serves as the pastor at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Tilden, smiled and waved at the crowds during his homecoming before turning his car into his driveway. He and his wife, Becky, exited the vehicle and tightly hugged their children. His parents, Tom and Lorna Boggs, and his brother Troy, all of Neligh, each wrapped him in an emotional embrace. Boggs then ventured into the street to thank the Legion Riders, who had met him at the Battle Creek spur and led him down Hwy. 275 into Tilden.
“I felt humbled, yet proud, to represent all the veterans who have gone before me ,” he said of their escort.
Boggs, 46, was deployed for 205 days as a chaplain with the Air National Guard, which included 14 days in New Jersey for Field Craft Hostile training, as well as three months in Afghanistan and three months in Kuwait. He is currently assigned to the 155th ARW in Lincoln.
“It was very hard, emotionally, to be away, but I knew that it was even harder for my family at home dealing with the joys and challenges of daily life, including eight birthdays and three major holidays,” Boggs said.
He and his wife of 25 years have 10 children—Drew (20), Adam (18), Evan (16), Grant (15), Isabel (13), Asher (11), Micah (8), Leah (5), Luke (5) and Judah (2).
“Being away has given me a greater appreciation for my family and the true freedoms we experience living in the United States,” Boggs said. “I had a sense of peace while I was away, knowing that so many church members of Immanuel Lutheran, friends and family supported my family with prayers, meals, gifts and encouragement.”
A Neligh-native, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1991 after graduating from Neligh-Oakdale High School. Boggs later earned his bachelor of science degree from the University of Maryland European Division and his master of divinity from Concordia Seminary. He spent 15 years on active duty, and five years in the Air Force Reserves during his time in the seminary. Boggs has spent the past eight years as chaplain with the Air National Guard.
He said he felt surrounded by love during his recent deployment and since his return home.
“Thank you to all of you who prayed and supported my family and I during this time,” Boggs said. “A special thank you to Immanuel Lutheran Church, the American Legion Riders and all who lined the highways and streets for the unforgettable welcome home.”