Dr. and Mrs. Marty Harderson celebrated the homecoming of their son, Gabriel Harderson, 20, with a reception held in his honor at Dr. Harderson's office in Leachville Friday, Oct. 10.
Gabriel was joined by his fiancee, Crystal Robinson, of Jonesboro, as he greeted well wishers, friends and relatives. A large commemorative red, white and blue cake was shared with visitors throughout the day, along with soft drinks.
"We are so glad to have him home," said Mary Harderson, his mother. "This is indeed good reason to celebrate."
"We have been concerned for Gabe while he was in Kuwait and Iraq, as it is constantly in the news when we watch television," Dr. Harderson said. "He graduated from the U.S. Marine Corps in San Diego in July of last year and went overseas in February."
"I was really looking forward to coming home, for many reasons," Gabriel said. "One was I wanted to see my family, and another was to marry Crystal and have her with me from now on."
The couple has planned their wedding for Oct. 18, at the Amphitheater on the River in Fort Smith. Miss Robinson is the daughter of Regina Garrett, of Florida, and Rudy Robinson, of Jonesboro.
The young couple are both graduates of Jonesboro High School. They plan to leave on Oct. 23, following the wedding, for Camp Pendleton, about 45 miles north of San Diego.
LCPI Harderson served as a field radio operator while in Kuwait and Iraq. He had great confidence in the leadership of President George Bush before joining the Marines and is quick to point out he has even more respect for him now.
"We believe in what we are doing over there," he said. "We saw many hungry and homeless people, who are depending on us to help them. They were very grateful. They are trying to get new leaders and a new government. We are trying to keep the peace until that is accomplished.
"It makes you feel good to know you played a part in helping people start over, to have a better future. They could not have done it without our help, as many of them were defenseless.
"I am so thankful for my family and for all the people in this area who wrote to me. It is nice to know that so many people care."
Harderson will complete his tour of duty in two years and eight months and plans to return to Arkansas and enter law school at the University of Arkansas.
"This is indeed a beloved country, so unique, so special," Harderson said. "We have no trouble wanting to defend our way of life. The very least that people can do is to support our president and what he is trying to accomplish. I, for one, am proud of it and am proud to serve."