Every day for the past 274 days, Sylvia Rodriguez has prayed for her son, Eddie.
Eddie Rodriguez, 23, joined the Army when he was still in high school, despite his mother’s initial hesitation. When he deployed to Kuwait nine months ago, she felt sick with worry and stress.
“I didn’t want him to go. He’s my baby,” said Rodriguez, who lives in Arlington. “But he told me it was the right thing to do. He is very brave. He has so many dreams.”
On Saturday, Eddie Rodriguez and the rest of the Army Reserve soldiers of the 90th Aviation Support Battalion returned home after nine months. As two buses pulled into the White Settlement Reserve Center, families held signs, waved and blew kisses.
Inside, soldiers clung to their babies and kissed spouses. They posed for photos, embraced tearful parents and joked with siblings. Some made plans for parties. Others said they preferred to relax quietly at home.
Upon release, Mark Parrel sprinted to his wife, Vivian, and scooped up his 4-year-old daughter, Belle, and 8-month-old son, Blake. Even Nunie, the family’s Pomeranian, came along for the reunion.
Parrel came home for his son’s birth and returned to Kuwait when Blake was a week old. Deploying was difficult for everyone.
“He is such a hands-on dad that it’s hard when he’s gone,” said Vivian Parrel, of Fort Worth. “We missed him.”
Holding his son, Mark Parrel said, “She is talking so much, and he is so big. This is the best day of my life.”
Nearby, Sgt. Johanna Joy of Rockwall knelt down to hug her three children, Jayden, 7, Joslyn, 5, and Justine, 3, as her mother snapped photos of the reunion. While away, Joy spoke to her children on Skype, but it was never enough.
“I’m overwhelmed,” she said. “We were gone for a long time, and they have changed so much. It’s good to be home.”
In Kuwait, the battalion was responsible for refueling aircraft and conducting major maintenance on UH-60 Black Hawk, CH-47 Chinook and AH-64 Apache helicopters. The soldiers also provided logistical support for other combat units throughout operations.
For many, the eight-hour time difference made it somewhat difficult to communicate regularly with loved ones in Texas.
Shadi Huffaker of Fort Worth recalled staying awake until midnight many nights so she could talk to her boyfriend, Sgt. Daniel Slaughter, for a few minutes before he reported for work. On Saturday, she held a sign that read, “I’d wait for you forever but 274 days is long enough.”
“We are so happy to have him home,” Huffaker said.
While their spouses are away, family members say, they are left to handle house and car repairs and other tasks, like helping children with homework and fixing broken toilets.
“You become the electrician, the plumber, the teacher, the parent,” said Monica De La Rosa of Dallas, whose husband, Omar, was deployed. “It’s a lot, but you manage.”
Reunited, the Rodriguez family chatted about their plans for the rest of the day, which included a barbecue with some of Eddie’s favorite foods: pork tacos, chicken enchiladas and shrimp cocktail.
“I feel complete,” Sylvia Rodriguez said, watching her son hold his 3-year-old son, Elliott. “I can breathe again.”
Sarah Bahari, 817-390-7056