- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 31, 2004

An Army Reservist captain got a hero’s welcome yesterday, as friends, family and neighbors held a block party in Northwest Washington to welcome her home after more than a year in Iraq.

Capt. Charlette Woodard returned Friday night to her mother’s home in the 7500 block of Eighth Street NW. Her Reserve unit, which was due home in April, returned earlier last week after its one-year tour of duty was extended up to 120 days.

“I’m just so overwhelmed,” Capt. Woodard said as neighbors grilled food and a DJ spun tunes. At the end of her 45-day leave, she will head to South Carolina to continue her career with the hope of a promotion to major. “This is the one time in my life that I’m speechless. It just feels great to be home.”

Minerva Woodard said the first thing her daughter did when she walked through the door was “scream … and smile.

“She has such wonderful smile,” she said. “It’s so good to have her home.”

At the welcome-home party, D.C. Councilmember Adrian Fenty of Ward 4, said, “We have so many opportunities to talk about what’s not going right. It’s great to see her returning home safely and to thank her for her service to our country.”

The guest of honor spent much of the day catching up with friends and family. “I’ve known Charlette since she was yea tall,” said neighbor Nichole Grant, 27, after giving Charlette a warm hug. “She used to walk me and my brother to school.”

Mattie Jones, who lives across the street from the Woodards, said she was “overjoyed” to see Capt. Woodard, whom she has known for more than 20 years. “It’s so good to see her back. God is good.”

Capt. Woodard grew up in the neighborhood and graduated from Coolidge High School in 1988. She joined the Army after graduating from Bennett College in 1993.

After joining the active Reserve in 2001, she was assigned to the 99th Regional Readiness Command. During the war in Iraq, she was called to active duty and was stationed there as a postmaster, getting mail out to soldiers on the combat line.

“You could stand with your face in that grill, and it wouldn’t be as hot as it was in Iraq,” Capt. Woodard quipped as a neighbor prepared hot dogs for the festivities. “Iraq is a third-world country, you know? Very different from here. My prayers go out to the soldiers still over there.”

Capt. Woodard, who was in Iraq for 15 months, gave special thanks to the neighborhood.

“Without [their] giving my mother the support she needed, she wouldn’t have been able to give me the support I needed to get through those 15 months,” she said.

Her mother said she was overwhelmed by the support of her neighbors, both during Charlette’s tour and in helping to organize the party. “The neighbors were out until 10:30 p.m. Friday, actually sweeping the streets for the party.

“They were cleaning the yards that weren’t even their own. When Charlette was [in Iraq], everyone would always ask how she was doing or how I was holding up. It was not a morning that went by that I didn’t think about her.”

“My mother used to always tell me as we were growing up, ‘Watch out for Charlette,’” said her brother, Charles, a District police officer. “I’m sure that one day out there in Iraq, she [encountered] something tougher than all of my 14 years as a police officer. She should have been looking out for me; she’s tough.”

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