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  Comments (3) Total Wednesday Apr. 23, 2014
Bringing Brenden Home
Flathead businesses help fly Afghanistan veteran home for the holidays
Spc. Brenden Thomas, second from right, is greeted by his family members Harold Thomas, Jake Thomas, Darian Thomas and Jessica Thomas, left to right, at Glacier Park International Airport. Brenden, who otherwise could not make it home for Christmas, was flown home by the Flathead Beacon sponsored Home for the Holidays. - Lido Vizzutti | Flathead Beacon
Specialist Brenden Lucas Thomas hadn’t yet stepped off Delta flight 2274, but his mother, Jessica, was already crying. Who could blame her? She hadn’t seen her 22-year-old son in 10 months.

But on Wednesday, Dec. 19, she was able to hold her son again, thanks to the “Home for the Holidays” contest, sponsored by Flathead Travel Service and the Flathead Beacon, which provided round-trip airfare for one lucky winner. Entrants had to write a 150-word essay explaining why their family member deserved to come home. Jessica’s letter was chosen on Dec. 13.

But it wasn’t guaranteed that Brenden would get to travel home until he was granted eight days of leave from his base at Fort Drum, near Watertown, New York.

“I applied at the last minute,” Jessica said of the contest, waiting near Gate 1 at Glacier Park International Airport. “I almost missed it.”

Brenden spent a year in Afghanistan and has been in the Army since he was 17 years old. He is currently a truck mechanic and will be promoted to sergeant later this winter. The young soldier was last home in April and hadn’t spent Christmas with his family in three years.

This year has been especially tough for Brenden, with a divorce, a broken-down truck and no way to get home for the holidays.

“He’s had a lot of personal problems this year,” Jessica said. “He just needs his family.”

His entire family was waiting for him to arrive on that Wednesday afternoon. Brenden’s younger sister, Darian, had also written a letter to bring him home, but didn’t have a chance to submit it before Jessica applied. She was ecstatic that Brenden would be home, although she joked that there was one downside.

“It stinks because now I have to go Christmas shopping for him,” she said, laughing.

As Brenden walked around the corner, in full military dress, Jessica ran toward the gate with tears running down her face and embraced her son. Then the entire airport terminal burst into spontaneous applause.

Jessica didn’t leave her son’s side as they stood near the airport gate. His dad, Harold, joked that he probably just wanted to get home to Kila to take off “that monkey suit,” referring to the stiff uniform.

Spc. Brenden Thomas, left, walks through Glacier Park International Airport with his mother, Jessica Thomas. - Lido Vizzutti | Flathead Beacon

Even with eight days to fill, Brenden said he didn’t have many plans, with the possible exception of hitting the slopes and doing some snowboarding.

“I just want to spend time with my family and relax,” he said. “It’s been a long few months.”

More than two-dozen business around the Flathead Valley and provided prizes to the “Home for the Holidays” contest for entrants who didn’t win the airplane tickets.

But for Brenden, there was no gift greater than being home.

“It’s awesome,” he said. “I don’t even know how to explain it.”
On 12-26-12, Gators commented....
Glad you updated us on his visit.  I’m sure many good things will be in his future.  Seeing young men like him gives me great hope for the future.  God Bless.  You are right this Newspaper rocks…along with people who comment on this forum.
Kellyn Brown
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