Guardsman returns home on leave after six months in Kuwait

July 16, 2004|TIM WISEMAN

After spending the last six months in Kuwait, Ricardo Aranda, a National Guardsman from Danville, came home Wednesday to begin his 15-day leave.

He said being apart from his wife Sally and three children - Tara, 15, Ricardo Jr., 13, and Manuel, 12 - was tough, and it was incredible to see how much his children had changed in that short time.

"It seemed like time stopped for me - it's weird," he said. "It felt kind of strange coming back, to see all the things that have changed in their little lives."

Since Aranda left, he said Tara looks much older, Ricardo Jr. seems to have grown a foot, and his "little man" Manuel does not seem so little.


He said he is so excited to see everyone again - and to see some green outside his window again.

"Over there, it's hot and dry and sandy," he said. "I missed the green grass and trees. There's some green there, but it's dull and not the same."

While in Kuwait, Aranda, a sergeant first-class, works as a dining facilities manager, a job similar to his full-time position as food coordinator for the Department of Corrections.

"My job is to support the other soldiers," he said. "I am the type of guy that doesn't really show how I am feeling, so I try to bring other people up."

He got to call home twice a week

During his time abroad, Aranda was able to call home twice a week. On Wednesdays, he would speak with his wife and on Saturdays, he would talk to his children.

To pass the time between calls, Aranda tries to keep his mind occupied.

"If you don't take it one day at a time, you go crazy," Aranda said. "I just focus on the mission at hand and just deal with whatever happens."

Sally Aranda said she copes by staying busy, too, so she cannot stop to think or worry about anything. And she stays away from news on television, because she does not want to hear any bad news.

For now, she's just going to relax and focus on spending quality time with her husband.

"My main goal is fishing right now," she said.

In the time until he reports back for duty on July 30, Aranda said he plans to catch up on the lost time by falling back into the family routines.

"Right now, I am just excited," he said. "I want to get back in the swing of things. I want to do the summer things we always do, like swimming and fishing - those little things are what I missed and what I want to do."

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