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Islanders Help Welcome Home Marines

by Staff Writer / New York Islanders
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Nearly 300 Marines returned home late Friday afternoon from serving in Iraq and were re-united with their loved ones at the Marines Recruitment Center on Stewart Avenue in Garden City. The Islanders Community Events Tour was honored to be a part of the joyous welcome home party.

The I.C.E. Tour was proud to be on hand to entertain the more than 500 family members and friends and welcome home the Marines. The I.C.E. Tour was out in full force, with the inflatable moonbounce, slap shot booth and obstacle course for the kids to enjoy. Sparky and the Ice Girls were also on hand to take pictures and welcome home the heroes.

All the youngsters and their families that stopped by the I.C.E. Tour received an Islanders’ gift bag, filled with some great Islanders prizes such as a 2008-2009 Islanders Yearbook, an Islanders puck bank, as well as Islanders pencils, stickers and magnets. The Ice Girls and Sparky also made their way around the crowd, handing out ticket vouchers to all, inviting them to come out to one of the last two Islanders home games.
Around 6 pm, families and friends waiting to see their Marine began to line up along the entrance of the parking, creating a long stretch of "Welcome Home" banners and American flags. The Garden City Fire Department was also on hand, creating an archway with their ladder trucks and hanging a giant American flag in the center. Sparky sprinted up and down the line of greeters that extended more than 200 yards, waving his flag and getting the crowd excited, as several buses soon pulled in with a police escort.

Cheers filled the air as the crowd chased after the buses. After a quick debriefing, the Marines then made their way out of the recruitment center and rushed into the arms of their biggest fans—their families.
For Kyle, Aiden, Ryan and Brendan, four brothers from Syracuse ranging in age from 3 to 10, it was a thrill for them to finally see their Uncle Joey return home from Iraq. They also enjoyed having the chance to meet Sparky and the Ice Girls, as well as get a chance to enjoy all of the interactive inflatables.

"It was awesome,” Kyle said. “Playing on the games, getting cool prizes, and then finally seeing Uncle Joey made this a very exciting day for me and my brothers."
Some of the Marines were also excited to see the Islanders participation in their return home. Master Sgt. James DuPont, a Garden City native and—as he put it—a "HUGE Islanders fan," was happy to see one of his favorite teams on site to help greet him and fellow soldiers.

It was a great day for everyone, and the Islanders were honored to be a part of the festivities.
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