Island National Guard
soldiers are reunited
with their families
About a dozen of the local
troops are home from Iraq
for rest and recuperation
Last Christmas, Kelo Carvalho gave his mother, Cherylann Perry, who is battling cancer, a gold bracelet with a picture of her and her brother who is on duty with the Hawaii Army National Guard in Iraq.
"There are two praying hands on the bracelet," Perry said, "signifying a promise we made to each other for the battles we have to fight. We promised to stay strong for each other."
Tuesday night, Cherylann and nearly 30 members of her family were reunited with Sgt. John Perry III as he arrived home on 15 days of leave from the war zone in Balad.
"I pray for her every night," John Perry said as he stood holding his 2-year-old grandson, Byson.
"It's been rough, said Perry referring to the month and half his unit has been in Iraq, "but we get by. There is danger all over the place there, but everybody is feeling good."
The brother and sister made a vow to stay strong for each other when he left Schofield Barracks in October for training on the mainland before deploying to Iraq.
"I know he wants to be strong for his family and his country," said Cherlyann Perry.
"It was sad in the beginning," added Cherylann Perry, who began chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer after her brother left. "But I live for moments like this when I get to embrace him and spend quality time with him."
Cherylann Perry said she still has a month left of chemotherapy which has been "rough since my body seems very sensitive to the treatments.
"But it's times like tonight that keeps me going. I know I can defeat the cancer and knowing what my brother is doing for his country only furthers my resolve."
Sgt. Perry was among the nearly dozen members of the 29th Brigade Combat Team who arrived home Tuesday night to begin 15 days or rest and recuperation. Part of his R&R will be spent celebrating his 24th wedding anniversary with wife, Penny, on Sunday.
Capt. Dion Maimihana, a legal officer with the Hawaii Army National Guard unit in Balad, said the R&R rotation began earlier this month. The 29th Brigade is allowed to send home about 300 soldiers each month with the military covering the cost of the plane fare.
More than 2,200 soldiers of the Hawaii Army National Guard's 29th Brigade are from Hawaii with another 1,000 from units on the mainland.
Sgt. 1st Class Doug Patterson, a member of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, barely had enough time to gather his family before boarding another plane yesterday with his family for four days at Disneyland and then another four days in Las Vegas.
"It's nice to be back," said Patterson, "where everything here is so organized unlike what it is like in Iraq."
Cora and Chato Sinfuego arrived at the airport more than three hours before the plane landed because they weren't sure if their son — Pvt. Chris Sinfuego — would be on the flight.
"He wanted to surprise us," Cora Sinfuego said. "And we wanted to surprise him; so he wasn't telling us what he was going to do."
They had to rely on information his high school friend — Pvt. Clifford Pablo — had relayed to his girlfriend and her mother.
Karen Go, who has been with Pablo since they graduated from Radford High School last year — said it's been hard and expensive keeping in touch with her boyfriend who is stationed in Kuwait with the 1st Battalion, 487th Field Artillery.
"We used to text message each other until I had to stop because I got a $800 phone bill," Go said.
However, when Clifford Pablo and Chris Sinfuego had a layover in Dallas yesterday they were able to confirm they were on their way home by sending a photo of themselves from their cell phones to Clifford Pablo's mother. Pablo even sent Go a picture of himself and actress Jamie Lee Curtis taken at the Dallas airport.
Minutes after getting off the American Airlines flight from Los Angeles Chris Pablo was in the arms of his sweetheart. "It feels good to be here," he said. "It's not as dusty as Kuwait, "but you get to see things like we don't have here like camels."