Home at last

Four-year old Sammy Porter is glad to see his father return home to Dale City.

“Are you glad daddy’s home?” Sam Porter, a returning soldier of the 1710th Transportation Company, questioned his son, who was propped on his right hip.

“Yes,” Sammy replied while looking at his father and touching his face.

Porter was among roughly 165 Virginia Army National Guard soldiers from Manassas and Bowling Green armories officially welcomed home Thursday after training for deployment overseas.

The 1710th Transportation Company entered active federal service on March 15 and remained at Fort Eustis awaiting orders for deployment. They were initially activated for a one-year period.

The soldiers were ready to board a plane with luggage loaded when news came from the United States Army Forces Command on May 22. The news was that the soldiers would not be deployed, said 1710th Transportation Company 1st Sgt. George Mong.

“For most of the soldiers, they have never been mobilized before. This is a first time,” Mong said.

Roughly 40 soldiers from the Manassas and Prince William County areas are returning home. Their home unit is the Manassas Armory on Dumfries Road.

Loved ones gathered on the bleachers to see the soldiers congratulated, honored and recognized at a ceremony held at Fort A.P. Hill Armory in Bowling Green.

Porter’s wife Cindy said there was a lot of anticipation and anxiety waiting to hear if her husband would be deployed or not.

“We’re glad that it turned out the way it did,” Cindy said, while standing beside her husband during a luncheon that followed the ceremony.

While the soldiers were in Ft. Eustis, the duties consisted of tactical, nuclear, biological and chemical training. The Company was trained to transport and resupply anything from ammunition, food, water, fuel or equipment.

“We prepared, we validated, we were ready to step on the plane. We did our mission,” said Capt. Joseph Graziano, 1710th Transportation Company Commander.

Graziano told the crowd and soldiers lined up in formation there were two goals: “Complete our mission” and “bring everyone home safely.”

“Thankfully our folks didn’t have to go in harm’s way,” Graziano said, encouraging the audience to keep in mind the soldiers who may be in harm’s way overseas. Virginia’s 1032nd Transportation Company left in April to serve overseas. The 1710th soldiers will return to serve in Virginia and duties could include assisting in flood relief.

“I’m exceptionally proud of this unit. They were willing to do the nation’s business,” said Karl Smulligan, Commanding Officer of the 91st Troop Command in Richmond.

Local returning soldiers shared mixed sentiments of the very moment when they thought they might be leaving overseas.

Sgt. Anthony Almodovar has lived in Woodbridge since 1998. He returned home to his fiancee of about a year and 7-month-old daughter.

“It’s good to be back,” he said.

Pfc. Isaura Lazo is also glad to come home to the Lake Ridge area.

Lazo was attending Northern Virginia Community College before she was called to active duty. At age 21, she looks forward to transferring to George Mason University to study business administration. She joined the Virginia National Guard to have a means to pay for her schooling.

“There’s a lot of emotional roller coasters I went through, I think,” Lazo described her experience while at Ft. Eustis. “I’m ready to get back into my life.”

Staff writer Jennifer Brennan can be reached at (703) 369-6591.