Back from combat in Afghanistan and having just landed at John Wayne Airport after a flight from North Carolina, U.S. Marine Andy Krikorian struggled to stay awake while his dad drove him to their Costa Mesa home.
It was late Friday, about 10 p.m., when the Krikorians turned onto Presidio Drive from Newport Boulevard to get to their home on Coronado Drive. The flight had been delayed about an hour.
That didn't matter. Everyone waiting for the 27-year-old that night would've waited no matter how long it took.
In a scene typically reserved for Hollywood movies, Krikorian was escorted onto his street by police with fire trucks and his entire neighborhood waiting up ahead to welcome him home.
"I was probably 99% in the moment," Krikorian said Saturday. "When I got to settle down, I kind of remembered where I'd been. It helped me remember I was over there for a reason. A lot of time we're like 'Heck, let's just go home.' This reminded me of why I was there."
The outpouring of love Krikorian received was as much directed at him as it was all his fellow Marines and the rest of the military overseas, said his father, Guy.
Krikorian joined the Marines two years ago and had been pursuing a baseball career before that. His battalion was shipped to Marjah, Afghanistan in December. In the seven months of combat there, 10 Marines in Krikorian's battalion were killed, including his best friend.
Neighbors lined Presidio and Coronado with American flags in the days before he came home.
"Short of bringing him into this world I don't think I've had a moment like [Friday]," said Judy Krikorian. "Me and my husband cried in amazement. I've been in this community over 35 years and I've never seen anything like that. The love and what they showed my son last night, it's going to take our family months to get over it."