SYCAMORE – Motorcycles lined a cul-de-sac in Sycamore on Saturday afternoon to welcome home a military veteran on leave.
Airman 1st Class Jeffery Haeffner of Sycamore was surprised Saturday by Warriors' Watch Riders, a group of motorcycle riders who come together in motorcades to honor veterans. Haeffner is stationed at the Moody Air Force base in Georgia and was previously in Afghanistan.
The riders rallied at Blain’s Farm and Fleet, 1300 DeKalb Ave., before the surprise.
“We’re going to wake up the neighborhood like we always try to do. We usually always succeed,” ride coordinator Rob Halcox said.
The Sycamore Fire Department led the motorcade with a fire truck.
“I’m totally in shock,” Haeffner said. “This has been a really cool experience to be welcomed home like this.”
Haeffner’s father, also named Jeffery Haeffner, planned the surprise with the Warriors' Watch.
“I think this is important because all our vets need to be recognized, not just my son,” he said. “But now I realize how much every parent [of a veteran] has to deal with.”
Jeffery Haeffner graduated from Sycamore High School in 2011 and has a year and a half left remaining on his contract. He is an electrical environmental systems specialist in the Air Force, which deals with “anything electrical on the jet,” the younger Haeffner said. When his contract is up, he hopes to be a police officer.
Haeffner’s mother and his girlfriend, Leesa Potthoff, did their best to make the event a complete surprise.
“He likes to know everything, so it was hard to keep it a secret. We had to make up a lot of stories,” said his mother, Jodi Haeffner. “I’m very proud of him and this has been an experience of a lifetime. This was more than I could have imagined.”
Marilyn West of Malta rode with her husband, Larry, on Saturday. They are neighbors of Haeffner’s grandfather, Don Haeffner, who is also a military veteran.
“When Don said [Jeffery] was enlisting, we were right there for him,” West said. “It’s cool to have our guys home. Don has been very excited about this.”
The motorcade left the Haeffner home to head to a party for the younger Haeffner at Four Seasons Sports, 1745 DeKalb Ave.
Haeffner has one week of his leave remaining before he returns to Georgia. His father said he is taking time off to enjoy the week with him.
“He’s all grown up,” his father said. “He’s a man.”