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A flag, a pin and finally home


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POSTED: Monday, November 23, 2009

In the span of two months, Pfc. Manuel Ramalho completed training as a mechanic in the U.S. Army Reserve, got married, moved into a new home and deployed to Iraq.

“;It was a struggle at first,”; Ramalho, 25, said of his decision to join the military and to volunteer for deployment to Iraq last year.

The situation was made easier because of the approval of his wife, he said.

“;Me, putting on this uniform, she knows this is what I wanted to do, and she supports me on this,”; he said.

For his sacrifices in service to the country, Ramalho was among 70 U.S. Army reservists to receive the Welcome Home Warrior Citizen Award yesterday at Marriott Ihilani Resort and Spa.

The Army presented the awards to the reservists as they take part in a reintegration program for soldiers who have returned from deployment.

All of the recipients are assigned or attached to 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry Regiment, 9th Mission Support Command in Hawaii or 1984th USAR Hospital in Alaska.

The award goes to citizen soldiers after they complete their first deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Noble Eagle.

The award kit includes an encased American flag, a commemorative coin and certificate, a lapel pin set and a Welcome Home Warrior Citizen flag.

“;I'll put them up for display. It really means a lot,”; Ramalho said.

He left Hawaii for Iraq last November and returned in August.

Sgt. Len Tanaka's first deployment was to Iraq in August 2004.

Yesterday was the first opportunity for the service to present him his award because since his return in January 2006, Tanaka deployed two more times.

He knew he would get his award sooner or later.

“;It's a bonus. It's nice to get,”; Tanaka said.

Ramalho and Tanaka know they are fortunate to receive their awards because they made it back home. A fellow member of 100th Battalion was not as fortunate.

Spc. Casey L. Hills died in June in a vehicle accident in Iraq while providing security escort for a convoy from Kuwait.