Tonganoxie Marine gets hero’s welcome upon return to KCI
When Taylor Sneed's plane landed Saturday at Kansas City International Airport, he expected to see his family. He got that and a lot more.
Sneed, who grew up in Tonganoxie and is a corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps, was returning home after an seven-month deployment to Iraq. Sneed's wife, parents and grandparents greeted him at the terminal.
Then, he stepped outside and saw 42 motorcycles and six family cars waving American flags, honking their horns and cheering. Finally, the thought hit Cpl. Sneed.
The cheering was for him.
"I felt like the president," Sneed said. "It made me feel really good."
The Patriot Guard Riders, a national organization of motorcycle enthusiasts who carry out missions to honor U.S. military members, greeted the family and presented Sneed with two flags. One was a "Welcome Home" flag signed by all of the Patriot Guard Riders. The other was a "We Support Our Troops" flag, which had emblems from the Marines, Navy, Army and Coast Guard on it.
Kansas City airport police temporarily blocked traffic ramps to terminals A, B and C as the riders left.
Sneed, a native of Reno, received a police escort on U.S. Highway 24-40, starting in Basehor. The trail continued in Tonganoxie when the unit turned on Fourth Street.
The unit continued west on Highway 24-40 and ended the tour at Sneed's mother's house in Reno. An escort was with the unit the entire way down the highway.
"It was definitely a lot different than just driving home from the airport," Sneed said. "It was a nice day, too, for all the bikers to ride."
As Sneed passed through downtown Tonganoxie, he noticed a few signs. At Bichelmeyer's, an outside sign read, "We love you, Taylor Sneed." Sneed's nephew, Jacob Goos, 3, Lawrence, held up a sign that read, "My uncle Taylor is a hero."
"As soon as I could get my arms around him, I did," Kay Sneed, Taylor's mother, said. "Whenever I tell people what he's doing, that's how I finish everything. ... I'm so proud of my son and I hope he knows it."
Doug Anrig, ride captain for the Patriot Guard Riders, hadn't met Sneed prior to Saturday.
"He's a very nice, young man and very modest," Anrig said. "He seemed to be taken back by all the attention, but at the same time felt proud to be a Marine and to represent the U.S. He's just a very nice, wholesome individual who has a lovely wife and family."
Sneed, 22, is a graduate of Tonganoxie High School. His wife, Melissa, 22, grew up in Lawrence. They currently have a house near Sneed's military base in 29 Palms, just north of Palm Springs, Calif.
Sneed already has served three of the four years in his Marine Corps stint. He's uncertain when he will have to go to Iraq again, but he'll have at least seven months in the United States.
Sneed had previously served in Iraq twice -- the first time from July 5, 2005, to Jan. 30, 2006; the second time from Jan. 28 to Aug. 24.
Interestingly enough, Sneed said when he was in high school, he didn't know he was going to be in the Marines.
"The Marines would come to high school," Sneed said. "I'd see them and never really thought about joining. Then, 9/11 happened. I got out of high school and was working. I didn't go to college, but I wanted to do something. I thought I could help out."
Sneed said after he completed his commitment with the Marines, he'd think about attending a junior college or Kansas University. He might also consider joining the Kansas Highway Patrol.
"He's grown up a lot," Kay said. "I wish that every soldier that came home could have a homecoming like that."