Midland's Arsiaga returns from Iraq Thursday night

'It feels really good to be home.'
by Bob Campbell
Midland Reporter-Telegram
Published: Friday, November 28, 2008 3:15 AM CST
- Family members, Patriot Guard Riders give him enthusiastic Thanksgiving reception.

Descending the stairway Thursday night at Midland International Airport, Marine Corps Cpl. Jeremy Arsiaga was one of the most composed people present as he was welcomed home from Iraq with cheers, applause, flags and posters.

His wife and children were there with his mother, brother, sister and some 40 Patriot Guard Riders, many of them Vietnam veterans who formed a review with 30 American flags outside when he left for a happy reunion at his Midland home.

Thanksgiving gratitude tripled as he flew in from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar at San Diego, because his brother Robert, an Army specialist, had been in Iraq for only three weeks when his unit was attacked with rocket propelled grenades and small arms fire April 4, 2004 and he was killed.

A Midland High graduate, Jeremy Arsiaga was in the Marines from 2002-06, then accepted an optional request to go back onto active duty last summer. "It was just something I always wanted to do, but with my brother having been killed, my family didn't want me to go," he said.

"I wanted to go the first time with the unit I trained with. I felt like if they had one more person out there watching their backs, it would be one less thing they had to worry about."

The son of Gilbert Arsiaga Sr. and Sylvia Macias, he was first met coming off the American Airlines jetliner by his wife, Patricia, and sons Adam, 9, and 4-year-old Robert. "It feels really good to be home," he said.

Arsiaga had finished firefighter's academy training before re-entering the Marines and hopes to join the Midland Fire Department upon completing EMT instruction.

He left Iraq at 1 p.m. last Friday from the USMC base at Al Asad, where he spent most of his time working in communications. "Some things happened around the base," he conceded, but said he never felt overly endangered.

His brother Gilbert Jr. invaded Iraq with the Marines in 2003 and followed news reports to monitor his brother's safety. Standing halfway down the receiving line, he shook his fellow veteran's hand and said, "It's good to have you home, brother!"

Army Spec. Jeremy Braxton of Big Spring, who returned from Iraq six months ago, also landed at 7:57 p.m. and was announced and greeted on the stairway.

The Arsiagas primarily grew up at Greenwood, where a tree has been planted at the Little League field and a memorial placed at Greenwood High in Robert Arsiaga's memory.

Awaiting his brother's arrival, Gilbert Jr. was "relieved and excited" that his family would experience no further war related tragedy.

Noting the differences between the Iraq's early stages and what soldiers and Marines have since encountered, he said, "When we went in, it was army on army.

"There were no IEDs or ambushes."

Jeremy is mustering out of the Third Marine Air Wing while Gilbert Jr. was with First Marine Division. Their sister Angel Muñoz of Midland was an Army soldier from 1996-98.

Their mother's happiness was apparent as she awaited Jeremy's arrival and then when he came down holding his youngest son. "It was hard to have him there with what happened already," she said.

The other 11 Permian Basin men who gave their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan are as follows:

Sgt. Conrad Alvarez of Big Spring (Feb. 20, 2008)

Marine Cpl. Daniel Amaya of Odessa (April 11, 2004)

Army. Spec. Brian Baker, with Midland ties (Nov. 7, 2004)

Lance Cpl. Chad Bales of Coahoma (April 3, 2003)

Army Cpl. Ray Bevel of Andrews (April 21, 2007)

Sgt. Bacilio E. Cuellar of Odessa (May 30, 2007)

Army Spec. Damian Garza of Odessa (Aug. 4, 2005)

Army Pfc. Clayton Henson of Midland and Stanton (April 17, 2004)

Army Staff Sgt. Kristopher Allen Higdon of Odessa (May 22, 2007)

Chief Warrant Officer Johnny Villareal Mata of Pecos (March 23, 2003)

Army Spec. Robert Volker of Big Spring (Dec. 20, 2006)

Bob Campbell can be reached at campbell@mrt.com.

Ellie