The Sag Harbor community stayed up late to help welcome home a soldier from Afghanistan.
Army National Guard Sgt. Charles Glass, who lives on Bay Point and has been away nine months, flew into Long Island MacArthur Airport on Friday night around 11 and was met not only by his wife and family, but by firefighters and emergency medical services volunteers from all over Suffolk County as well.
Glass, a 30-year-old combat medic, is a member of the Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps. Fellow EMTs, Sag Harbor Fire Department members, along with Chief Pete Garypie, traveled to Islip to meet Glass and to escort him home — flashing lights the whole way.
The Long Island Chapter of US Veterans Motorcycle Club led the homecoming for Glass, who flew in with four other medics from the I-69th Infantry Battalion out of Manhattan. They are SPC Luke Imperato of Bohemia, who is also a member of the Community Ambulance Company in Sayville; SPC Tony Hetherington, Staff Sgt. Angel Vasica and SFC Sean Brown, of Patchogue.
After riding through Bohemia and Patchogue, the escort broke off and headed east for Sag Harbor.
Fire engines, ambulances and Southampton Town and Sag Harbor Village police units picked up the escort along Noyac Road, past Bay Point, and over the Lance Cpl. Jordan C. Haerter Memorial Bridge into the village over to the Chelberg-Battle Post of the American Legion, where a small crowd gathered on Saturday at about 1 a.m.
A mix of veterans, Women's Auxiliary members, and friends waved American flags as Glass rode into the village. As he got out of the car with his wife, Sarah Glass, there were many hugs and "thank yous" shouted.
Glass said he had no idea he was going to get such a welcome home. "This is a shock to me," he said. "It's 1:30 in the morning and there's a lot of people here. It's amazing."
Glass just finished his first tour of duty, returning for a debriefing in Mississippi two weeks ago. He served in Kandahar first and then at Forward Operating Base Lagman, located in the Zabul Province of eastern Afghanistan, his family said.
JoAnn Lyles, of Sag Harbor, who son Lance Cpl. Jordan Haerter was killed in Iraq in 2008, helped organize the escort and celebration, driving in the procession from the airport. Holding back tears, she said, "It's nice to celebrate the good things. The town does such a great job of coming together in sorrow, we need to come together for the good things, too. Let's celebrate this."
Lyles knew Glass before he was deployed, when he worked at Riverhead Building Supply in Riverhead. She works at Perimeters, Riverhead Building Supply's kitchen cabinet company.
"It's nice to bring somebody home safe," said Eddie Downes, the president of the Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps. Glass had kept in touch with the corps while he was away, sending emails that were read aloud at meetings.
The Shirley Community Ambulance met the others at the airport and though those volunteers had no connection to Glass, and are located nearly an hour away from Sag Harbor, they rode in the procession the whole way. It was something Glass said particularly touched him.
Glass has been a longtime volunteer in emergency services. A native of Keene Valley in the Adirondacks, his family said he joined the fire department when he was 16 and became an EMT as soon as he could. He also served as a firefighter and EMT while at Cortland College, they said.
He moved to Sag Harbor to be near his brother Dan Glass, sister-in-law Jennifer Glass and their daughter, Emily Glass, an 8-year-old student at Sag Harbor Elementary School. Sarah Glass is a teacher at Pierson High School.
"I definitely want to say 'thank you,'" Glass said, addressing the crowd of motorcyclists, EMTs, firefighters, veterans, friends and family.