For six months, Winthrop native Mike Delehanty had been stationed in remote areas of Afghanistan – training members of that country’s police and military forces.
Weeks at a time, he found himself so far off the beaten path that communicating with his wife and children back home was absolutely impossible.
As a Marine, though, on his third tour overseas, it had become a situation that was somewhat expected, though still difficult.
Last Tuesday around 1:45 a.m., surrounded by mothers, wives and tired children, Abbe Delehanty watched a group of Marines march in tight formation from a barracks to an area right in front of the group of anxious children and fretting wives and mothers.
As the Marines stood at attention and received their last briefing, the excitement and anticipation was without parallel.
Finally, the officer dismissed Mike Delehanty, and he was finally home – this time probably for good.
“I just fell into his arms and I didn’t want to let go of him,” said Abbe during a phone interview this week. “It felt like everything in the world stopped.”
As the military begins major troop drawdowns in Afghanistan and overseas, moments such as these have become more common around the country. Wives welcome back husbands. Children hug mothers. Mothers face young sons with tears.
It’s part of a process of war, and something that so many military families are experiencing at the moment – perhaps for the last time due to the upcoming scaling back of efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“These soldiers have been gone for such a long time and you get used to doing things by yourself, and then they come back and it’s such mixed emotions,” said Abbe in a phone interview this week. “It’s so exciting to see them for the first time and you’re so happy. We saw them marching and we were screaming and clapping and jumping up and down. I couldn’t even see Mike yet and I was jumping uncontrollably. It was just a lot of adrenaline. It’s such a relief. Honestly, there really aren’t words that can describe it.”
Mike and Abbe Delehanty now live in North Carolina and have five children, all of whom were ecstatic to see him come home.
“He walked in the house and they sat up in bed and it was like they all saw a ghost,” said Abbe.
Mike, 26, has been in the Marines since 2005 and has had tours of duty in Italy/Iraq, then again in Iraq and finally in Afghanistan. While he has been far from Winthrop for some time, his roots there run extremely deep.
He is a graduate of Winthrop High School.
His uncle is Police Chief Terrance Delehanty, and his father is Winthrop Police Officer Sean Delehanty. His uncle, Michael, is also a Winthrop Police Officer.
It’s pretty easy to say his roots in the community run deep.
He said he is at a crossroads now in where he wants to go with his career.
He might stay in the Marines, but he also has an interest in policing and furthering his education.
“He’s one of those Marines that wants to explore things and maybe even go to college,” said Abbe. “He’s so used to being a Marine.”
And being used to being a Marine in Afghanistan means one is used to long periods of time without contacting loved ones.
In his latest tour in Afghanistan, Delehanty was sent on missions in the remote Nawa District. That meant only scant news of his existence for days at a time.
“We would talk one time a week, or maybe every week and a half, but sometimes two weeks or more and only via e-mail,” said Abbe. “I would write something and he would reply some time later. Then I would reply and he would answer several days after. That got difficult.”
And that’s exactly what makes reuniting with a soldier so spectacular – and such a moving experience.
“I remember it was like slow motion and it felt like a dream,” said Abbe. “There was a lot of excitement and tears – happy tears.”