- The Washington Times - Monday, December 22, 2003

Reservists from the 443rd Military Police Company yesterday talked about what it was like returning from service in Baghdad and getting back to everyday life.

“The last year has been an emotional roller coaster,” Spc. Kareem Falcon, 22, said yesterday at the U.S. Army Reserve Center in Owings Mills, Md. “I didn’t think I’d cry when I came home, but the minute I saw my parents I started tearing up.”

Spc. Falcon, 22, will be returning to classes at Maryland’s Salisbury University next month. An online sociology class helped her keep up with her education in Baghdad. “It was good because I could get away from the war scene,” she said.

The reservists came home two weeks ago after nearly two straight years of duty. The Army Reserve unit was deployed after the September 11 terrorist attacks to do post security at Operation Noble Eagle in Texas, and after a brief return was called up to run a Baghdad prison.

These reservists won’t be deployed again for at least five years.

Pfc. Mike Robson said it was great to be home in Waynesborough, Pa., and to be able to catch up with friends and “do my own thing.” He said “It’s a small town, so some things change but not a lot.”

The best part of his homecoming, he said, was seeing his 3-year-old niece and how much she had grown.

Pfc. Robson, 23, said he was told not to anticipate warm welcomes or thanks when he returned, and wasn’t sure what to expect.

“Someone told us not to be surprised if people don’t care where we’ve been. But that’s their choice — that’s what I’ve been defending, their choice,” he said.

He left his studies at James Madison University for the mission in Baghdad. Now Pfc. Robson is hunting for a job and is considering a career in law enforcement or working for a civilian contractor in Iraq.

It wasn’t easy for the troops, who have spent more time on duty during the past two years than they have spent with their families. They had to rely on sporadic phone calls and e-mails to communicate with loved ones.

“There are times I just sit and look at my kids and I can’t believe I’m really home again,” said 2nd Lt. Dave Quayle, a 39-year-old father of three, whose youngest, Susanna, is 21 months old.

“I thank God we brought the whole unit back. I look at the Christmas tree and I’m grateful for what we have,” said Lt. Quayle of Newark, N.J., who held his 3-year-old daughter, Julia, on his lap as 5-year-old Peter played nearby.

Mary, his wife of six years, was at his side.

“It’s almost like the whole thing never happened,” Lt. Quayle said of his tour of duty in Iraq.

“A lot of people say, ‘Thanks,’ and that they’re so glad we’re home. I don’t know how to react. It’s what we do. That’s our job,” he said.

Getting back to normal life for Staff Sgt. Jack Medeiros means opening a family business near his Westminster home. Sgt. Medeiros, a route sales manager for Aramark Uniform Services, said he and his wife, Tamara, plan to open a Curves Fitness Center franchise with relatives.

Sgt. Medeiros, 43, said he was thrilled to be back with his 8-year-old triplets and 16-year-old son and has been catching up on quality wrestling time with the family dog, a 110-pound black Labrador retriever named Blue.

“People you don’t even know just come up and shake your hand and say, ‘Thank you,’” Sgt. Medeiros said.

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