Gulf War veterans, families find new meaning on Fourth of July For the Llewellyns, it is still Christmas War in the Gulf


The outside of Gary and Rose Llewellyn's Frostburg home, which is decorated with flags, numerous yellow ribbons, and a 12-foot long red, white and blue banner, is ready for the Fourth of July. But inside, it is still Christmas.

In the living room of their Frostburg home, the 7-foot tall artificial Christmas tree is still up. It was waiting for Sergeant Llewellyn when he came home May 14 after serving eight months in Saudi Arabia with the 372nd Military Police Company, U.S. Army xTC Reserve, headquartered in Cresaptown in Allegany County.

Under the tree, decorated with yellow ribbons, flags, doves and white light, sat his Christmas presents, his Easter basket and his Valentine's Day candy.

"He had all his holidays when he came home," said Mrs. Llewellyn, 46. She even saved him a snowball from a storm the day before Easter. She kept it for him in the freezer.

His wife made him wait almost a week to open his presents, until the older of their two daughters returned from a vacation in Tennessee.

"My wife wouldn't let me touch anything," Sergeant Llewellyn, 43, said with a chuckle. "I kind of had to restrain myself."

So, he had to settle instead for that cold beer he had been craving during those long, hot months in the desert.

"I hit the country at 12:30, and my first cold beer was 4 or 5 o'clock,"he said, remembering the moment well.

Since returning, he has tried to spend time with his family, but has also retreated to the quiet and solitude of his favorite camping spot at Big Bear Lake, near Hazelton, W.Va.

"I've been up there every chance since I've been home," he said. "After eight months of having someone tell you what to do, when to do it and how to do it, it just feels good to go up there and kind of do nothing."

Some aspects of his readjustment have been difficult. After living in Spartan and rough conditions, he has had to get used once more to the comforts of home.

"You get so used to sleeping on a little cot, and you come home and try to sleep on your king-sized bed, that's a little hard," he said.

Sergeant Llewellyn described himself as "a little bit more contrary and cantankerous" since his return, both at home and at his job as a Frostburg police officer.

"I had a position as a platoon sergeant, and I was giving orders, and then I've got to go back to a job as a patrolman first class, and take orders," he said.

He thinks his military experience will change his attitude toward his work.

"I don't think I'm going to take as much crap as I have before from the general public," said Sergeant Llewellyn, who will mark 16 years on the force Sunday. Before, it took a lot to get him angry, and he would often try to reason with unreasonable people. He would talk for 15 minutes to a person who he knew he should have arrested in the first five minutes, he said.

"But I don't think it'll take that much now," he said. "I think it's going to make me a better police officer in the end."

His family seemed to change as well during his time away. In the Army, "you're used to telling somebodyto do something, and getting it done," he said. "And you come back, and you find your family has become a little independent of you."

He said coming back has caused him some stress. "I'm still trying to work that off of me," he said. "That's the big thing, the readjustment."

The welcome he got when he returned has helped the transition. The Monday after his unit arrived home, the town of Cumberland held a parade to celebrate the victory and welcome back its soldiers.

"It felt so good to know the backing that we had here," he said. "It just made you swell up in your chest."

As he celebrates with his family today at Big Bear Lake, Sergeant Llewellyn said he will have more appreciation not only for the Fourth of July, "but for Memorial Day, Veterans Day or any holiday that has any military significance."

But that won't change some of his July 4 rituals.

"I'm just going up to camp and flying the flag," he said. "And hopefully find some fireworks somewhere."

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