Close to 300 soldiers back on Guam soil - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Close to 300 soldiers back on Guam soil

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by Mindy Aguon

Guam - The return of 280 members of the Guam Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 294th Infantry Regiment was the highlight of hundreds of families' weekend. They were reunited with their loved ones who spent the last year defending our freedom in Afghanistan. 

After spending the last 308 days on deployment in the Middle East, 280 members of the Guam Army National Guard returned to a hero's welcome.  An estimated 1,500 to 2,000 people lined the runway with signs and leis ready to welcome their loved ones into their arms.

Bernie Lizama didn't just have her husband, Sergeant First Class Anthony Lizama but also her son, Specialist Randall Lizama on this deployment, making it twice as difficult and nerve racking. "Holding the two of them in my arms and just giving them big kisses and just to hold them and now I just have some butterflies in my stomach," she explained.

Lizama says she was able to get through this deployment by relying on her faith and her family. Her daughter, Meemee, a senior at academy, said she couldn't have asked for a better graduation present, noting, "My brother and I are super close. We have a strong bond - I'm looking forward to having him home and pick on him again and have our brother/sister bonding."

Natasha Cruz and her 10-month-old son, Noah, had been anxious about the arrival.  You see, Noah was born two days after her husband, Specialist Christian Cruz, was deployed. "I didn't know how it was going to be," said Natasha. "If I wasn't pregnant, I think it would have been harder for me because I don't have anybody but since he was born, it's been pretty easy. My days went faster."

This was Christian's first deployment and Saturday tonight he would meet his son for the very first time. "The back of his shirt says 'I've waited 306 days to hug my daddy.' It's actually 308 days, but I counted it from when he was born," she said. "He knows the voice and he knows his face. And when he sees people in uniform he thinks it's his dad."

This has been the toughest deployment to endure for Sergeant Michael Doyle's wife, Sissy Doyle, who is a mother of five. "The twins - they're very close to dad, so the first couple months was hard. Teren would cry every night for and so I had to play the role," she explained.

Doyle says she was able to get through with prayer, site activities and sharing with her children about their dad's service and sacrifice. Communication and patience. That's the only thing that took us this far," she said.

The five kids were anxious to reunite with their dad, saying, "Just to have him here to help us out and having a dad in the house again it's going to be fun. Just having my daddy back.  Who's coming home? Daddy?"

And shortly before midnight, the wait was finally over.

The white Omni Air International plane was welcomed with a water salute as it parked on the runway.  Governor Eddie Calvo, Lieutenant Governor Ray Tenorio and Major General Benny Paulino were the first to welcome the soldiers home before they deplaned the aircraft.  And within minutes the first soldiers exited the plane - one waving a Guam flag. And one by one the soldier's walked down the stairs and ran into the arms of their loved ones.

Spouses embraced in tearful and emotional reunions as children clung to their deployed parent with ear to ear grins.  Soldiers breathed sighs of relief to be home and in the arms of family. Randall Lizama said, "What did I learn? How much of life we take for granted. How blessed we are. Especially coming from our culture. Very humbling to be out there and come back here."

And as cameras were flashing and the embraces continued, Natasha and Noah waited, anxiously watching as each soldier got off the aircraft. And then he saw him for the first time.

When asked how I felt to carry his son for the first time, a tearful Noah said, "I'm speechless."

The soldiers were able to spend time with their loved ones on Sunday but had to report today through Wednesday for home station activity, which includes administrative and supply migration for soldiers as well as the Keep Your Guard Up program for those unemployed and underemployed service members.

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