Soldier comes home for Christmas

December 25, 2008 8:52:32 PM PST
This has been a very special Christmas evening for a suburban family. They welcomed home a loved one who had been fighting in Iraq for the last year and a half. With a kiss from his wife and a home-cooked meal, Master Sargeant Mark McPhan is counting his blessings. After 13 months in Iraq and a seven-day trip home, the U.S. army paratrooper says he is lucky to be spending Christmas with his family in Chicago Heights.

Everyone wants to go home for Christmas, it is just the luck of the draw, depending when you deploy and return. I'm fortunate to be back with my family, my wife and family here in Chicago and to spend Christmas with them. said McPhan.

McPhan has been serving in the army for the past 22 years. He says that his tour in Iraq was among his most difficult and that leaving a war-torn country makes him appreciate his family and home even more.

His wife Stephanie is also a master sergeant in the army. They met in Korea five years ago, and are expecting their first child together. That's one reason McPhan is retiring from the army next year. His mother Claudia is happy about that decision. She says in having him home tonight, her prayers have been answered.

"He's been gone for a long time, Coming out on planes and going to dangerous places," said Claudia Coleman. "This is it for him but then my grandson is going."

Her grandson, Curtis Drane, is following his uncles lead. He joined the army and on Saturday, will be deployed to Korea for a year. He says he'll miss his six-month-old daughter the most, not to mention his family's homecooking.

"I love the food at home," said Drane. "I'll get some tomorrow, then I have to sacrifice for a year."

"You realize when you're in deployed in confined spaces, you don't have the luxury of getting whatever you want. Just family and friends, just the little things in life that you miss," said McPhan.


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