Valley Soldiers return home

January 27, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
It was a day filled with emotional reunions for the Army National Guard soldiers who flew into Fresno on Sunday.

The cheering began as soon as the huge group spotted the military heroes walking toward them.

Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Bobby Soto said, "I can't explain it really. It touched my heart to see all my family here and everybody. I was so happy when that plane hit the ground. I was like thank God, thank God."

Soto is in his 14th year of service with the National Guard. This was his second deployment overseas. His wife Sonya is certainly grateful he's home.

"We're so excited," Sonya Soto said, "I'm still jittery with butterflies, it feels like I've seen him for the first time, like when you get married and you're walking down the aisle, it's like that."

"My husband had been in the military service before I met him, so going into this with him I understood what he was doing and what I was getting myself into, and our kids, and we're 100 percent behind him," said Sonya Soto.

The homecoming was also another step in a new direction for specialist Garcia who proposed to his girlfriend in the airport. His girlfriend said yes.

SFC Ferdinand Santos, Army National Guard said, "It's overwhelming, I've been gone since January because I went to school. I came back for a week, then went back with my unit. It's been almost 12 months that I haven't seen them."

The grip one three year old had on her mom brought new meaning to the slogan "Army Strong". "I've been nervous -- to see how she was going to react to me," said Sergeant Sophia Fierro, Army National Guard.

This was 24-year-old Sergeant Sophia Fierro's first deployment. Fortunately, she had her cousin who stepped in to watch her daughter while she served overseas. "It's been hard, you know, we didn't know. She's been talking to her on Skype and she really was mad about her being gone," said Joanna Sosa, Visalia.

The families are appreciative that they get to see their soldiers alive and well.

Army veteran Jess Ahumada says his tragedy is the reason he's spent three years guaranteeing someone will welcome each soldier home. "I come back out here to welcome these soldiers home because of the time that I served in the military. And out of respect for my son that I lost four years ago in Iraq," said Ahumada, "They need to be welcomed back and shown the respect."

The soldiers are all part of the 10-72nd Transportation Company with the Army National Guard based in Fresno.

They spent more than six months in Northeastern Afghanistan providing security and logistics support in the war-torn region.

Army National Guard Spc. Kristal Tumey said, "When you see the difference that we made over there in the lives of those people, that's what made it worth it for me."

Among the group of returning soldiers were also members of the 649th Military Police Company based in San Luis Obispo.


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