My Last Tour: Safe at Home

SMSgt. Rex Temple and his wife, Liisa, together at home after his yearlong deployment in Afghanistan.
TAMPA (2010-4-22) -

Senior Master Sgt. Rex Temple arrived in Tampa today after almost a full year on the frontlines in Afghanistan. His return was delayed by a revolt in Kyrgyzstan and volcanic ash plumes that shut down most air travel from Europe.

Cameras were rolling and tears flowing as Temple stepped out of the airport tram and into a crowd of friends and well wishers at Tampa International Airport.

“Wow,” Temple exclaimed as the crowd applauded. “It’s great to be home. I just want to thank everybody for showing up. I really didn’t expect this.”

His wife, Liisa Hyvarinen Temple ran to him. Their embrace was captured by local TV news crews. Temple became somewhat of a local celebrity through his daily blog Afghanistan My Last Tour. Temple says the ability to communicate with family back home is a huge morale booster and that included his blog.

“It was amazing wouldn’t you agree,” Liisa said turning to her husband.

“It made our marriage stronger,” Temple agreed.“It was a chance for her to interact with the Tampa Bay folks and get them involved for a project that I started in Afghanistan.”

While deployed, Temple started a school supplies drive for Afghan children. School students in the bay area responded as did other war veterans and businesses. In all, Temple’s team delivered more than 500 boxes of paper, pens, pencils, chalk, books and other supplies.

The school supplies drive, his blog, weekly radio stories and more than 180 combat missions earned Temple and his Air Force team of 10 each a Bronze Star Medal, one of the highest military honors.

“We were recognized for our accomplishments, for our missions outside the wire and everything that we did. And the Army saw that and they gave every person on my team the Bronze Star,” Temple said. “But the true heroes, the true heroes are the ones that I left behind there. They’re the ones that I attended their memorial services. They’re not coming home. They came home in a coffin.”

Temple is still somewhat awed by the response and reach of his blog.

“People not just from the Tampa Bay area but all over the United States and the world was reading my blog, some good, some bad. People had opinions. It’s just hard to understand how much that a blog can influence something like that.”

It’s a world that includes Gayle McKercher. Her husband is a Lt. Col in the Air Force who spent 6 months in Kabul, Afghanistan last year. She did not know Temple personally, but she joined the welcome home crowd when she saw the balloons and banners with Rex’s name on them. She had listened to his weekly radio stories from Afghanistan.

“My driveway moments and that was usually listening to Rex after I dropped my son off at school and paid extra attention because he (her husband Lt. Col. Derrick McKercher) was over there as well,” McKercher said. “And just what a pleasant treat. I’m so glad he’s coming home.”

Also glad Temple is home are Charlie and Sam his two golden doodles who greeted him with wagging tails and slobbery licks of the hand. That’s when Temple knew he was really home playing with his dogs on the living room floor.

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