QUINCY — Tuesday night saw a crowd gathered at the Prairie Trail shopping center to welcome home a local “Gunslinger.”
Pfc. Jeffery Blacketer is a member of the 91st Military Police Battalion, 23rd Military Police Company “Gunslingers,” based at Fort Drum, New York. Around 135 soldiers from the 23rd MP Company were deployed to provide security in and around the Hamid Karzai International Airport in mid-August as the final U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. The soldiers returned to U.S. soil on September 11th, the 20th anniversary of the attacks that led to the conflict.
On Tuesday, Blacketer returned to his home area on leave. Originally from Quincy, Blacketer resides in Coatsburg, but his stop of choice coming home was Buffalo Wild Wings. He didn’t make the trip alone, however.
“This really caught me by surprise,” Blacketer said. He made the comment while surrounded by friends, family, veterans, law enforcement, and fire officials from throughout the area. He was escorted from near New London, Mo. all the way to Quincy by dozens of motorcycle riders and vehicles adorned with flags. Even more vehicles and supporters lined the route along I-172 from near the Payson exit all the way to Broadway.
“It’s very heartwarming, especially all these people I don’t even know,” he said.
Blacketer said his unit pulled a lot of security duty at the airport in Kabul, as well as just helping people in general and in any way they could as the U.S. pulled their citizens and allies out of the country being overwhelmed by Taliban forces.
Blacketer is already starting to look at the future, aside from his dinner with family.
“I’m not sure where my career will take me yet,” he said. “I’m hoping to stay in and make that my career, and to try to keep doing some good in the world.”
Blacketer took a final moment to express his gratitude with those who helped guide him back to Quincy on Tuesday.
“I appreciate all the support from everyone welcoming me home.”