Families welcome 25th Infantry Division troops home from Iraq
WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD (HawaiiNewsNow) - There were many hugs and kisses at Wheeler Army Airfield Sunday night, as the families of about 50 soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division welcomed them home from their deployment to Iraq.
The troops missed out on spending Christmas and New Year's with their families last year, so the happy homecoming happened at a perfect time -- one week before Christmas.
Proudly displaying their homemade signs, Jovan Junior, Jaylen and Julian Velasquez waited anxiously for their daddy to return home from Iraq.
"Very excited," Jovan Junior, 7, said.
"We've been pretty busy cleaning, decorating the house," Kim Velasquez, returning soldier's wife, said. "We made a cake, cooking because he wants his favorite meal, lasagna."
SFC Jovan Velasquez and 51 others from the headquarters element of the 25th Infantry Division had been deployed for 13 months. But it just might be the final bus ride from Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam to Wheeler Army Airfield that feels the longest.
"Ah, anxious right now," SFC Velasquez said. "Butterflies in my stomach, just ready to hold my kids and my wife."
For the soldiers and their families, that jittery feeling is mutual.
"I'm like sick to my stomach," Kim Velasquez said. "I've been trying to eat, but haven't been able to eat a whole lot today. I'm just like very nervous, kind of shaky."
After arriving at Wheeler, the troops first go through an administrative process -- which includes turning in their weapons -- and then get into formation to march in before their loved ones. The Tropic Lightning Warriors are officially home.
They're commended for a job well done, and then released to their families.
"They're bigger!" SFC Velasquez said after seeing his sons.
It's a reunion 13 months in the making.
"You were so nervous, you felt like maybe you might throw up. How does it feel now?" this reporter asked.
"I still feel like I'm going to throw up, but it feels good to know that he's here now," Kim Velasquez said.
"She's done a great job raising our boys," SFC Velasquez said. "It just really feels good to be with my wife and my boys."
To all of the soldiers, thank you and welcome home.
Anchor/reporter Teri Okita contributed to this report.
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