TETERBORO, NJ - A sergeant in United States Army was surprised on Sunday when he received "A Hero's Welcome" from the local community, coordinated by the group with the same name whose mission it is to organize and encourage Americans to welcome home military personnel from overseas wars.
U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Larry Mantilla, who is also a Passaic County Sheriff's Officer, returned from an 11-month deployment, including being stationed in Africa. He and his family received a surprise escort from the Lodi Police Department, Passaic County Sheriff's Department, New Jersey State Police and the Warriors' Watch Riders. The convoy wound its way through Lodi and onto Route 46 East, ending their trip at Teterboro Landing.
Despite the cold and windy weather, they were greeted by 50 of members of the community, area residents, members of the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department and EMS, with American flags. Young children displayed homemade welcome posters. U.S. Naval Officer and former honoree Elwin Miranda, who was surprised in December 2017 and currently home on leave, also attended to welcome Mantilla home.
Mantilla received a certificate from A Hero's Welcome, stating, "One behalf of a grateful nation, we thank you for your service and sacrifice and dedication to the preservation of our freedom."
Rick Merchant of Warriors' Watch Riders presented Vera with a silver star from an American flag, to be carried as "as a reminder that You are not forgotten.".
"I love the overwhelming support that we get from everyone when we announce a 'welcome'", said Rose Pagan of A Hero's Welcome North Nersey. "It’s just so amazing!"
Pagan said Mantilla was "extremely surprised, and so shocked" at the event. She also thanked all the first responders who provided an escort, and gave "special kudos to the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department."
A Hero’s Welcome is an organization that insures all service members receive a proper welcome home. Warriors' Watch Riders is an umbrella group, organized to support U.S. servicemen, past and present, and their families. They work closely with A Hero’s Welcome and other troop support groups providing motorcycle escorts for military personnel deploying or returning from home from service.