RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Holiday homecomings are sweet - but especially for soldiers returning from war. A solider with ties to the Richmond area got a warm welcome home this morning.
First, there were the hours of waiting in anticipation. Then, searching for a face in the crowd. And finally, a split second of recognition.
First Sergeant Joey Vasquez is home after a year in Iraq- his second tour. His wife Cara organized a homecoming celebration at Richmond International Airport. Family and friends- and even some complete strangers- waved flags and held up a banner in honor of the 25-year Army veteran.
This past year has been tough for Vasquez and his family.
"He's always completely stressed out. You're stressed out, but you have to hide it to a point. You're always worried," Cara said. "They're getting bombed- they were still getting bombed up until the last couple weeks he was there, so it's really scary."
Sergeant Vasquez's trip home comes just a week after the announcement of the official end of the Iraq War.
"We were just closing down Iraq. It was a great honor. We had the honor to shake hands, cross the Kuwaiti border, and actually lock the gates behind us," said Sergeant Vasquez.
But those events take a backseat to this occasion for Vasquez and his family.
"Home for Christmas is wonderful- the family is going to celebrate with us, maybe a little extra this year as well," Cara said.
"That's what the holiday is all about, not just a day on the calendar. So, I'm glad to be back. I'm so glad to be back. I'm just ready to see my family and go get some lunch!" added Vasquez.
Vasquez's homecoming is a little bittersweet. His unit already has orders to go to Afghanistan on November 2012.