Chicago-area soldiers return home

March 29, 2010 5:32:17 PM PDT
Monday was a special day for two Chicago-area families who welcomed a loved one home from duty overseas.

The homecoming sparked an emotional celebration.

Lt. Jessica Larson, 34, is one of the lucky soldiers home for a little rest and relaxation after spending the last six months of her first tour of duty in Iraq.

"You miss your friends a lot and you miss the food and being home," said said Lt. Jessica Larson.

"It's so exciting. Jess is one of my best friends and such an inspiration to me. She challenges me to set goals and achieve them," said Chris Dettman.

"I couldn't be more proud of her. She has always been one with the adventuresome spirit. I think maybe she found what works for her and it is great she can take something she loves with medicine and use it to help and serve," said Mike Hanlon, Jessica's former boss.

The former O'Hare Airport consultant-turned physician's assistant-turned soldier was greeted Monday by family and friends. But Jessica's inspiration was missing. Her father died of cancer just months before she was to be deployed.

"She is very much into her church, into doing mission trips and climbing Kilimanjaro and she's done the Appalachian Trail," said Marilyn Larson, Jessica's mother.

While some soldiers like Lt. Larson are getting just a short break from the war on terror, other troops are coming home from overseas for good.

Army Specialist Carl Brandon III just finished his second tour of duty which included time in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We are just really excited that he doesn't have to go back overseas because that is the most nerve-wracking part. The hard part is over. Now we just have to wait a year for hime to come home," said Kelly Brandon, sister.

Brandon left the region just before President Obama's surprise Sunday trip to the war torn country.

Relatives say while they support the efforts to combat al Qaida, the 23-year-old's dad who served in the Marines says he's still concerned about the price of victory.

"You sleep a lot better when you know they're home. I really feel for all the parents who still have kids there," said Carl Brandon, Jr., father.