As we pause to remember our fallen war heroes this Memorial Day weekend, one Connecticut town is paying tribute to a soldier who just returned from combat.
U.S. Army Captain Jeffrey Pugatch spent the past year in Afghanistan and returned to his hometown of East Hampton on Friday to find a large crowd of family members, friends, and even strangers lined up to greet him.
"Seeing everybody here, I'm absolutely amazed and I want to thank all of you for your support," Pugatch told the crowd.
When he deployed overseas, his loved ones placed a ribbon in his honor on the town's Yellow Ribbon Tree. During the ceremony, Pugatch took that ribbon down as the crowd cheered.
"There aren't really words to express the gratitude that I have that this many people showed up in the rain just to welcome me home. It really does mean a lot," said Pugatch in an interview after the ceremony.
An Army flag will also fly in his honor near the Yellow Ribbon Tree for one week.
East Hampton resident Ann McLaughlin started the yellow ribbon effort after her grandson returned from a tour in Afghanistan.
"I said wouldn't it be nice if everyone could see you and welcome you. Well he didn't get his welcome home but everybody else did so that's what started it," said McLaughlin.
Captain Pugatch is the sixth serviceman to return from overseas combat since McLaughlin started these ceremonies. Three more ribbons remain on the tree and two other servicemen from East Hampton are waiting to be deployed to Afghanistan, said McLaughlin.
Pugatch hopes people take time this holiday weekend to reflect on the sacrifices made by other soldiers who gave their lives serving our country.
"If nothing else I hope that it does remind people about Memorial Day and what it's actually for," said Pugatch.