Local soldier gets surprise welcome

The motorcade honoring U.S. Army Spc. Matt Dumdie leaves the Northern Illinois University Convocation Center on Saturday, bound for Sycamore.
The motorcade honoring U.S. Army Spc. Matt Dumdie leaves the Northern Illinois University Convocation Center on Saturday, bound for Sycamore.

SYCAMORE – A small conspiracy was necessary to trick a U.S. Army intelligence specialist on Aug. 24, but the payoff was worthwhile.

About 100 family members, friends and supporters gathered Saturday afternoon at Northern Illinois University’s Convocation Center for a surprise vehicular escort to a party welcoming Spc. Matt Dumdie home from Afghanistan.

Motorcycles, cars and emergency vehicles from DeKalb, Sycamore, Cortland and Waterman all were part of the parade that began at the Convocation Center and ended at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Sycamore, where a surprise party honored Dumdie’s service.

Dumdie had been told the family needed to pick up a cousin in Malta for the party, but instead, they entered the Convocation Center parking lot, where the escort was waiting. Applause, hugs and handshakes greeted the tall, slim soldier as he exited his mother’s vehicle.

Dumdie’s escort was sponsored by Warriors’ Watch Riders, a national volunteer group that honors and supports former and current military personnel.

John Azoo, a retiree who lives in Sycamore, was “ride captain” for Saturday’s event.

“We get so wrapped up in our daily lives and we forget what’s going on in the rest of the world,” Azoo said.

WWR’s informal goal, he said, is to treat military personnel “like rock stars. They’re somebody special. We want them to know we think they’re heroes. It’s tough stuff they’re going through … that their families are going through.”

Dumdie’s family is happy to have the solider home, at least for a while. “It’s good. It’s very good,” his father, Gary Dumdie, said.

For his part, Dumdie is clearly not accustomed to being the center of attention.

“Uh, it’s a little different,” he said of being the focal point. “It wouldn’t have been my idea but I don’t mind it. It’s good to see everyone out and I appreciate the encouragement.”

Dumdie graduated Sycamore High School in 2010. From there, he went to boot camp at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. After boot camp, he graduated from the Department of Defense’s Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center in California.

While there, Dumdie learned Dari, a prominent language in Afghanistan. He is now part of the First Cavalry Division, which is based at Fort Hood, Texas. He deployed to Afghanistan in November 2012, where he was stationed at Forward Operating Base Gamberi, near Jalalabad.

He returned to Fort Hood in July. His next assignment hasn’t been set.

Dumdie has earned the Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Ribbon, Global War on Terror Ribbon and National Defense Ribbon. He also has received the Army Achievement Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Afghan Campaign medal and NATO Medal.

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