Soldier comes home for a whirlwind visit |

Soldier comes home for a whirlwind visit

Sara Thompson

Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune Army Cpl. Nathan Sunderland, a South Lake Tahoe resident who is on his second tour of duty in Iraq, is home visiting his family with his new wife, Army Pvt. NaShay Sunderland.

After spending seven months on his second tour of Iraq, Army Cpl. Nathan Sunderland is home for a few days in South Lake Tahoe.

“I’m sucking up every last minute,” said Della Sunderland, his mother. “It’ll be hard when he leaves.”

Cpl. Sunderland said his 18-day leave, which ends Sunday, has been a whirlwind. On May 13, he married his girlfriend, now known as Army Pvt. NaShay Sunderland, in Tennessee, where she grew up. Both are touring Iraq, but Pvt. Sunderland is stationed in Baghdad, and Cpl. Sunderland is in Haswa. They only saw each other one day during their first seven months in Iraq, and it was on Christmas.

“I’m trying to let them have their time together and not be greedy,” Della Sunderland said.

One of the hardest things about coming home is the time change, Cpl. Sunderland said. He still wakes up at 3 a.m. Another difference is being able to drive his car, sleep in a real bed and see his wife and family.

He said he doesn’t receive a lot of news about what’s happening at home unless someone e-mails him.

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“You miss a lot over there,” he said. “A lot happens in a year.”

Cpl. Sunderland said even though he wants longer leave time, the sooner he gets back, the sooner he can be home again.

When he’s in Iraq, Cpl. Sunderland is at an Iraqi police station. He said a typical day for him begins at 5 a.m. – making breakfast, cleaning up, patrolling with the infantry, cooking dinner, working out and then doing it all over again.

Cpl. Sunderland’s first tour of Iraq began in September 2005, and he stayed until September 2006. His second tour began in November 2007, and he has eight more months to go.

The 22-year-old spent two birthdays there.

On Friday, Della Sunderland said she wasn’t thinking about her son going back over.

His aunt, Jane Duffey, said whenever she hears about a car-bombing in Iraq, she freaks out.

“I’m thinking: ‘Oh, my God, I don’t want to hear that phone call,’ ” Duffey said.

Della Sunderland said she normally doesn’t talk about the war, but since she has her son here and knows he’s safe, she is able to.

“Otherwise, I don’t watch the news,” Della said.

Cpl. Sunderland said he plans to re-enlist as a ward officer after his tour is over.