Navy reservist gets a welcome home at RSW like never before

Reporter: Anika Henanger Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
Navy reservist Shawn Wittwer stands with his family — wife Cathy Hillman-Wittwer and their son and grandson — upon his return to RSW airport from his year deployment overseas. Credit: WINK News.

We witnessed an incredible welcome home for a hometown hero returning from his tenth tour of duty.

Community members gathered Thursday to welcome home Navy reservist Shawn Wittwer upon landing at RSW airport.

For 21 years, Wittwer couldn’t be there for many family milestones.

“This guy’s in taekwondo. He got a brown belt. We had a grandson born. We have eight grandchildren in total. He’s missed seven birthdays,” said Cathy Hillman-Wittwer, Shawn’s wife.

When Wittwer serves his country, his family serves too.

“Not having your companion, not having someone to turn to when times get tough,” Cathy said.

Wittwer has been mobilized eleven times, most of his deployments overseas. His wife and his family hold down the fort in Cape Coral when he deploys.

“Like every other year, and he seems to deploy,” Cathy said. “This one has been particularly hard with the COVID.”

Wittwer’s most recent stop was to Spain. After a year away, Wittwer is finally back home.

“Because he’s a reservist, there’s no welcome home,” Wittwer said. “Here, you get off the plane; you grab your stuff; you drive home. Nobody’s ever been around to welcome him home and thank him for his service.”

So Cathy asked people online to welcome her husband back at the airport.

And what a welcome he got. It was his family mixed in with total strangers — community.

“Twenty-one years, never had one of these before,” Wittwer said.

But his family has been there every step of the way.

“They’re getting so big,” Wittwer said. “Seeing the kids being the born. Those are things you’re never gonna get back.”

But Wittwer and his family will always have the memory of the community support that showed up to welcome him home after all these years serving.

“Appreciative that all these amazing people came out to honor a man that I’ve been honoring for years,” Cathy said.

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