Guam airmen return from Iraq deployment - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Guam airmen return from Iraq deployment

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by Mindy Aguon 

Guam - As island residents celebrate Christmas, there are some who are especially grateful to be home just in time for the holidays. Those who were defending our freedom have returned home, making for the best Christmas gift of all.

As island residents spend this weekend with their loved ones, opening gifts and enjoying all the activities that come with the holidays, this Christmas is extra special for Guam Air National Guard Tech Sergeant Anthony Arriola, who just returned from a six-month long deployment to Iraq. Arriola and his fellow soldiers were the last of the 254th Security Forces Squadron, which returned home this week. 

The team conducted air base ground defense missions including perimeter patrols and security for base entry points in Iraq. They also helped in the transition of operations, handing over security defense responsibilities to the Iraqi forces, as history was made as the last of the U.S. troops pulled out of the country this month. "There was a few incoming rounds coming into our area close enough to rock the place where you actually feel it, but not close enough to pose a threat to our lives," he said.

Arriola and his wife Amy (a staff sergeant in the Air Guard), are no strangers to deployment. "It's pretty challenging" he added. "It's not the first time, but it's always a challenge being away from the family in the comfort of home so its really hard." In fact, the couple and their children only have a couple of months together as a family before Amy is deployed.

"The same camp that my husband came from I actually served there in 2004, so I've went through the same experience he went through and in a couple months I'll be deploying to Afghanistan. So it's going to be a big life change because I'm only going to be here for a couple months and then I leave. So for the most part it's going to be challenging, but we always prevail," she explained.

Being so far away has definitely been difficult, but they say being able to communicate via Skype has helped allowing them to stay in contact almost daily. Anthony's arrival on Thursday came as an early Christmas gift for their son, Andrew. Amy said, "He thought it was Santa coming out, so he didn't know he was coming. So this is a surprise, he thinks Santa brought him home, so indeed he did." 

Aiden Sudo is just as happy that Santa Claus helped bring his dad, Senior Airman Jesse Pangelinan, home just in time for Christmas. He happily said he's looking forward to spending time with him, playing baseball. This was Pangelinan's first deployment, which proved to be an eye-opener - he experienced indirect fire on the base.  His family is thankful that they're able to spend this Christmas together. "We are just happy he is home safely and we are just glad he came before Christmas, it's really nice surprise for my son as well," he shared with KUAM News.

"I couldn't ask for anything more they brought us before Christmas," he added, "so I can't argue with that."

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