Family, fiancee welcome home soldier

March 24, 2009 5:16:01 PM PDT
A Chicago soldier got a warm welcome home when he returned to Chicago on Tuesday after serving in Afghanistan. Army Staff Sergeant Nathaniel Rivera was greeted by family, friends and his fiancée.

Gotta hurry. Make the home ready for the homecoming. Get the flags up. Staff Segeant Nate Rivera will be home in just a few minutes.

Two weeks ago, the mood at his parents' Northwest Side home was markedly different. There was a voice mail. Nate had been injured in Afghanistan. He was OK, but the wait to hear directly was pure agony.

"Was about three days. I was really worry and we pray to God everything is OK," said Mariam Rivera, solider's mom.

"We didn't sleep at all but when we got the phone call at two o'clock in the morning, it was the greatest feeling to hear the voice on the other side," said Victor Rivera, soldier's dad.

Master Sergeant Rivera came home on Tuesday afternoon, his left leg in a cast, a fractured ankle, the result of an improvised explosive device that hit his humvee. But crutches don't hinder hugging.

"I had a cousin who died in Iraq, so its a little hard having him over there, but he's home. Yes he's home. It's a good ending," said Karen Kujawinski, soldier's fiancée.

"It's been a long journey, a little emotional, but other than that happy to be alive," said Master Sgt. Nate Rivera, Illinois National Guard.

Rivera's fellow guardsmen from a Freeport-based MP unit -pulled him away from his damaged humvee just before it exploded. He has two screws in a fractured ankle but he's lucky. And he misses his mates.

"Yeh it's the soldier in me. I should be there. I want to go back. It's just the camaraderie you build as a soldier," said Sgt. Rivera.

Rivera will do rehab now and most probably finish his 11-year guard career stateside. This evening, though, there can't be too many hugs.