EVERETT – No T-shirt can substitute for a mother’s hug.
Marilyn Rexilius of Everett will finally get to give her son, Eric, that hug today when he returns after serving in Iraq.
She wasn’t able to see the Apache helicopter mechanic when he and his unit returned to their base in Germany in April.
So Rexilius, a 911 emergency dispatcher, sent a part of Snohomish County to him.
She collected 341 shirts donated by firefighters throughout the county to send to him and his fellow soldiers.
The shirts, many of which were signed by firefighters, were distributed as part of their official welcome back this spring.
Rexilius, who has dispatched firefighters to emergencies for 23 years, knows every department in the county. Still, she was surprised to find that many were eager to help.
“All that makes me cry because it’s so nice. I consider them real heroes every day and to know they’re so generous makes me feel very grateful to work with people of their caliber,” Rexilius said.
Some firefighters took the shirts off their backs to give to soldiers. Others created special shirts to donate to those serving with her son, she said.
She had hoped to visit Eric overseas in April, but couldn’t make it to his base in Hanau, Germany. It’s been five years since they’ve seen each other.
In her absence, the woman from the Army who received the T-shirts met Eric Rexilius when his plane landed in Germany.
The woman offered him a hug, telling him, “This is from your mom,” Rexilius said.
Rexilius is decorating her white fence and yard with 100 yellow ribbons. Neighbors are planning a potluck for Saturday.
“I wish we could have a celebration the size of the (USS Abraham) Lincoln parade for everyone who comes home because they so deserve it,” she said.
Eric Rexilius plans to spend time with his two boys, Christian, 12, and Connor, 9, who live in Everett with their mother’s parents.
Rexilius said she’s excited just to sit and talk with him, “just to have him relax and take a deep breath after all the things he’s done,” she said.
After his trip, he’ll go to Fort Eustis in Virginia to train other helicopter mechanics.
His mother is relieved that he won’t be going back into combat.
“I just feel for all the parents who have children” serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, she said.
Reporter Katherine Schiffner: 425-339-3436 or firstname.lastname@example.org.