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thedrifter
10-11-05, 08:14 AM
10/10/2005
Doing his duty: Waverly, N.Y. soldier returns home from Iraq tour
By: Patrick Abdalla

Since returning home, Lance Cpl. Tom Venegas has enjoyed nice warm showers, with the water cascading down his face.

After serving the previous seven months in Iraq, Venegas has been enjoying a short vacation in his hometown of Waverly, N.Y. The 22-year-old explained that alongside being with family, it is things like long showers, sleeping in, attending Mass and homemade food he missed the most.

"It's the small things that are the most that I've learned to appreciate over here," he said, explaining that where he was stationed, they were told not to shower with their mouths open because the water is so bad.

After his short respite back home, Venegas will complete his tour of active duty in Buffalo, N.Y. He reflected on his time in Iraq and experience gained since joining the Marines, nearly four years ago.

"So far, like a lot of things in life, it has its good times and its
bad times," he said. "But mostly it has been positive."

One thing that Venegas will take away from his time in Iraq was the support from his hometown community. Several people sent him care packages. He was also able to keep in touch with family and friends through the Internet.

Knowing there were people back home helped the soldiers make it through the tough times, he said.

"That's what really keeps them going. I got more support than I ever thought a lot of us would," he said.

Venegas, the son of Thomas and Rita Venegas, recalled seeing his family for the first time since early January. His parents, along with his 3-year-old nephew Christopher, and two of his four sisters, Sara Ann and Angela, greeted him in Buffalo.

He had gotten off the bus with the other members of the unit and been dismissed. With so many soldiers and families around, things quickly became chaotic.

"The first person I saw was my little sister," he said, adding it was difficult to describe all the emotions he felt when he caught a glimpse of Angela. "It's a moment that will forever be in my mind."

On Sunday, Venegas went to Mass in Waverly at St. James with his family. It was an experience that was a good break from what he's been seeing, he said.

It was peaceful and quiet, he said.

He explained there have been some odd side effects to being back in Waverly. The humidity in the air has made it hard to breathe at times, and the drop in temperature is very noticeable.

"I'm cold, I'm very cold," he said.

However, Venegas said he is thankful for the opportunity to come home safely.

"It's good to be home. I'm blessed to be home. To those who are still over there, I wish a safe passage," he said before pausing. He thought about the soldiers' who did not make it home. "God rest their souls and God bless their families."

Ellie