Hug after hug, the hero’s welcome was overwhelming for Marine Corporal Jason Carmona.
Students carried flags, signs, and created banners to greet him in the hallways of his old school. Finally, he took the stage in the school’s cafeteria.
“What you did for us writing those cards,” he told the crowd with tears in his eyes, “thank you.”
One by one teachers stood next to him on stage at the Milam K-8 Center and praised their former student for his service – nearly four years with the Marines, including a seven-month tour in Afghanistan. He just got home to Hialeah two weeks ago.
The highlight was when his mother, Alba Rocio Carmona, took the stage. She’s a special education teacher’s assistant, and helped organized the letter and card writing for Carmona and his fellow Marines while they spent Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve on foreign soil.
“I did get teary-eyed a little with my mom,” he said, smiling. “I love my mom a lot.”
Back during his nine years at the school, it was called Milam Elemiddle. He pointed out two murals he helped paint in the hallways.
“Sometimes you feel like you’re not really appreciated, so to see all this was a pretty big deal for me,” he said.
Seventh-grader Laritza Gonzalez sent Carmona a card “to appreciate him for what he’s doing,” she said. “It’s a good thing that he came back home safe.”
Carmona plans to complete his military service by July of this year and then go to Broward College to study radiology. In the hallways, students shook his hand, and stopped to snap pictures, or even salute.
His message for students at his former school: “Make the most of every day.”