Port Angeles party to fete Marine back from deadly fighting in Fallujah

PORT ANGELES — When the photographer’s shutter clicked, Thomas Ryder had his fingers over his ears, blocking out the noise of an explosion that would bust open the steel door of an Iraqi schoolhouse behind him.

In his dusty brown fatigues, gear strapped to his front and back, he looked like any other U.S. Marine on the streets of Fallujah.

But it was the colorful tattoos stretching down his left arm to his wrist that identified Ryder to his mother and friends in the large photo that ran across two pages in the Nov. 22 issue of Newsweek.

It brought home the war to the people who know him.

People read or hear about war, Ryder, 27, a 1995 Port Angeles High School graduate, said this week.

“But a lot of my friends, they see that picture,” he said.

“It finally kind of impacts them because they know me, they know someone who’s over there.”

This weekend, Ryder comes home to Port Angeles with two tours of duty in Iraq behind him, as people he grew up with — and some people he’s never met — celebrate his return in a party at a Port Angeles restaurant-nightclub.

His family is holding the “welcome home” party Saturday evening at Castaways, in part to satiate all the people in the community who continually ask about him, said Ryder’s mother, Pam West.

The party starts at 8 p.m. at Castaways, 1213 Marine Drive.

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