National Guardsman gets special welcome home in Pataskala

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PATASKALA, Ohio (WCMH) — When Senior Master Sgt. Matt Branson looked outside his home Sunday morning, he was touched to see flags blowing in the breeze. The Patriot Guard had planted those flags in honor of Branson’s homecoming from a seven-month deployment.

Little did he know, that was only the beginning. Just around the corner, about 170 motorcycles were lining up and ready to salute his service.  

“I really wanted to just show him how much he was appreciated, and give him that big hero’s welcome that he really deserved,” said Beverly Colleen Sherwin, Branson’s girlfriend and the original organizer of the celebration. “Talking with him while he was deployed, you know, he was kinda bummed out about his homecoming because he envisioned it to be, you know, his family and friends and kids and everything at the airport, and he knew with the pandemic that it was going to be different. He wasn’t going to get that hero’s welcome.” 

Branson was stationed in Southeast Asia for the last seven months as part of the 121st air refueling wing in the Ohio Air National Guard. Not only was he unable to see his family when he stepped off the airplane back in Ohio, but he immediately had to begin a 14-day quarantine in his home, which meant he couldn’t see his parents for two more weeks. 

“Well, that’s been hard once he got home,” said Janet Branson, Matt’s mom. “I mean, it was hard all along, but knowing he was here and I really couldn’t come and see him, that was tough.” 

So Sherwin enlisted the help of Branson’s sister, Renee Frey. She reached out to the Patriot Guard and on Flag Day, which turned out to be Branson’s final day of quarantine, their soldier got a hero’s homecoming.

“I was completely shocked!” Branson said. “When the sirens started sounding, I thought, ‘I can’t believe this is all just for one guy.’” 

“It’s just absolutely awesome!” Janet Branson exclaimed while looking out at the large group of motorcycles. “I knew there was gonna be some motorcycles. I hadn’t envisioned this at all.” 

“We knew that people would come out, but this is just unbelievable,” Frey added. “I’m just so appreciative and what an honor to be able to show Matt how much we appreciate him and his service and everyone that serves.” 

As the procession drove by waving and honking their horns, Janet Branson couldn’t wait any longer. She got out of the car, walked up her son’s front yard and the two embraced for the first time in seven months — and 14 days — both saying, “I love you.” 

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