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Neighbors orchestra surprise homecoming for Beddow

Celebrating with Sgt. Walter “Craig” Beddow, center, as he arrives home after a year away, first for training at Fort Seal, Okla., and then in Mosul, Iraq, are, from left, father- and mother-in-law, Richard and Barbara Davis; wife, April Beddow; daughters, Halle, 10, and Morgan, 9; and parents, Ed and Carolyn Beddow.

Photo by Jolanda Jansma

Celebrating with Sgt. Walter “Craig” Beddow, center, as he arrives home after a year away, first for training at Fort Seal, Okla., and then in Mosul, Iraq, are, from left, father- and mother-in-law, Richard and Barbara Davis; wife, April Beddow; daughters, Halle, 10, and Morgan, 9; and parents, Ed and Carolyn Beddow.

Memorial Day is a time when Americans honor veterans who have served and sacrificed.

Sgt. Walter “Craig” Beddow’s neighbors in the Braden Park subdivision didn’t wait for Memorial Day to thank him for his service.

When Beddow returned from a year-long deployment with the 1/230th Air Cavalry Squadron earlier this spring, more than 50 neighbors of all ages surprised him and his family as they rolled into the neighborhood.

“It was quite the shock, and was very much appreciated,” said Beddow of the March 21 homecoming reception. “My neighbor Lisa White is quite the arranger. I really appreciate them coming and showing their support for me and my family. It was really special.”

Craig’s wife, April, said White organized the reception. “She initiated it, asking everyone to put out flags in our neighborhood. Lisa showed up at our door and asked everyone to come outside. She has that motto, don’t ask permission, ask forgiveness! That was a sweet thing for her to do,” April said. “It was her way to do something to show appreciation.”

White has lived in the subdivision just off Keeble and Sevierville roads for 12 years and the Beddows moved in about 10 years ago. Two nights before Beddow was to return home, another neighbor put out fliers announcing that he was coming home. Then on Sunday, March 21, Lisa said she and another neighbor talked about how there should be a crowd of folks waiting for Beddow when he turned into the neighborhood. “So we went door to door. It took two hours, and we hit every door. Probably 50 people came out. There were kids in strollers, kids on bicycles and on skateboards,” White said. “One guy had a Corvette and he put an American flag all over his car from the trunk to the hood. There were several Vietnam veterans who came out - and two had their Vietnam hats.”

White said she felt it was important that the neighbors honor Beddow. “He gave up a whole year. April had three kids there for a year by herself, and I can’t go for a weekend without help,” she said.

April said neighbors watched after her family while her husband was gone. “For example, Mr. and Mrs. Gene Patten - he is a disabled veteran of the Vietnam War - frequently checked on us,” she said.

April said her husband was thankful for the reception. “He was very humbled and appreciated the neighbors. It brought out neighbors we haven’t had a chance to get to know,” April said.

The military wife said her own father, Richard Davis, is a Vietnam War veteran and was very emotional about how the neighbors welcomed home his son-in-law. “He didn’t get the same homecoming,” April Beddow said. “Things are different now, and it made him feel good to know that these guys are being treated better.”

Craig said it appeared the reception meant a lot to Davis. “Times were different back then, it was a different world,” he said of the Vietnam War era.

April said she wanted everyone to remember those two members of the squadron who didn’t return. “Everyone please especially remember Capt. Marcus Alfred and warrant officer Billie Jean Grinder,” she said. “They are our two pilots who were killed.”

Grinder and Alfred died on their last mission before coming home when their helicopter made a hard landing at base in Iraq, Craig said.

Beddow is an Anderson County native and works as a full-time technician at the helicopter squadron at McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base. They have three children: two daughters: Halle, 10, and Morgan, 9, and a stepson, Mitchell, 19.

Beddow, a 20-year military veteran, said Memorial Day is always special to him but even more so this year. “Last year I was gone for Memorial Day, and this year, being back home, I had a greater appreciation for being back in the United States, for what we have and for our freedoms,” he said.

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