Smiles and tears welcome soldiers home: Soldiers from Nevada National Guard’s 1/221st Cavalry arrived in Reno Saturday after one-year deployment in Iraq
As the 20 soldiers walked through the door, the room erupted with cheers and applause. The wives and family members of the men who they haven’t seen in a year rushed forward to welcome them home.
In the back of the room, Rev. Stan Pesis, of St. Paul’s Lutheran Family Church in Carson City, waited for his son Spc. Benjamin Pesis.
“We had a lot of (instant messaging) contact, and were able to talk to him, but it will be good to have him home,” Pesis said.
Spc. Pesis was part of the 1/221st Cavalry of the Nevada National Guard that has been on a one-year deployment in Iraq, providing convoy security throughout the country, including the streets of Baghdad, the Anbar Province and Fallujah.
During the past year, the unit logged more than a million miles.
Stan Pesis said he heard his son had stopped driving in early June and was training his replacement, but then went back on the convoys about a month ago.
“When he told me he was driving again, I got really scared. Two weeks ago I got an IM that said he was off driving for good, and I almost cried because I realized how scared I had been,” Pesis said.
Spc. Pesis said he considers it an honor to be able to serve his country.
“I had family members that came to America to escape religious persecution, and I know that freedom was bought with blood and sacrifice,” he said. “I wanted to give back.”
After living in Iraq, Spc. Pesis said he has a renewed appreciation for his country.
“I’d tell people to be grateful for being here in the States,” he said. “For the things we can do and the comforts we enjoy. Not cable or air conditioning or things like that but basic health care, access to medicine and not having an immediate fear of death.”
Staff Sgt. John Deal, of Carson City, said that above all else he felt relief. He was relieved to be home with his wife, Heidi, and 4-year-old son, Elijah.
“The support that people have shown me buoyed me up,” Deal said. “The care packages and the support from home is what helped all of us get through this.”
Alicia Ford brought her son, Connor, 9, and daughter, Emily, 2, to welcome home Sgt. Colby Ford, who re-enlisted after Sept. 11. He was on active duty with the U.S. Air Force years ago, had been discharged and decided to rejoin, choosing the Nevada National Guard because it was the only thing close to his home in Dayton.
“There was a decent amount of communications that we had, but it’s just different to be here with them again,” Ford said.
After the soldiers’ arrival, they were honored during a ceremony with representatives from the offices of Sens. Harry Reid and John Ensign, Rep. Dean Heller, Gov. Jim Gibbons as well as Sparks Mayor Geno Martini.
Col. Robert Harington thanked the soldiers for their service and then turned to the gathered crowd.
“To the families, I’d like to honor your contribution. Although you’re not in uniform, your contribution humbles us all,” Harington said.
When asked what he planned to do with his first day back, Ford said he just wanted something to eat and some time with his family.
His son Connor said he was glad to have his dad home, but knew what he had been doing while he was away was important.
“He’s been protecting me,” Connor said.
— Contact reporter Jarid Shipley at firstname.lastname@example.org or (775) 881-1217.