Family give local soldier hero's welcome

By MIKE PRIGGE Staff Writer Published:

Defiance resident Alicia Valenzuela was given a heros welcome by family members this past weekend after spending several months abroad participating in the Iraq war. Everybody cried and told me how proud they were of me...it was very emotional, she said of the reunion. Valenzuela is a member of the Air Forces 20th Fighter Wing, where she serves as a fuel system specialist, currently stationed in South Carolina. But during the conflict her outfit was stationed at Prince Sulton Air Force base in Saudi Arabia. The young soldier was very excited about the opportunity to come home, visit with the family and catch up on some much need R&R. I came back for my nieces baptisms but I also wanted to come home and relax, she said. Over there we were working 12 hour shifts with no days off, she added. Add to that the fact that it was more than a half an hour drive back to the main base, and it made for some very long days. On some occasions Valenzuela said it was just easier to find a place to sleep at the operational base rather than catching a bus back. It was also very hot over there. Valenzuela said that temperatures typically got as high as 120 Fahrenheit. Valenzuelas unit was shipped overseas in February and took part in operation Southern Watch. Once the war started her unit was in charge of refueling planes making bombing runs. Valenzuela said that when the war started her feelings were that she wanted it to be over as soon as possible so she could come back home. She said at times she did get homesick. For security reasons she was not allowed to make phone calls to her family. Fortunately she was able to communicate with her parents through a friend who had access to e-mail. Valenzuela said that she plans on signing up for a new detail that should keep her stateside. While she only got to come home for a couple of days, she is grateful for the time she had to spend with family and friends. She said that the next trip home will probably be later this fall. Hopefully I will be able to come back to Defiance for a football game since I have family playing this year, she concluded.