Homecoming. Birthday. Christmas

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:53

    MONROE-Julie and Bob Squillini got the best Christmas present ever - their soldier daughter came home after a ten-month tour of duty in Iraq. It was a dual gift for Army Spc. Laurie Ann Squillini - it was also her 24th birthday. More than a year ago - and what now seems like an eternity - Squillini wanted a change in her life, wanted to try something new. When she mentioned joining the Armed Services, her father said, "Go Navy." "I went Army," she said, "but never thought I was going to Iraq when I signed up." Like many soldiers, Squillini will talk about day-to-day concerns, like how hot it was or how grateful she and her fellow reservists were to get care packages from home. There's no talk about combat. No talk about politics. Just a lot of talk of being home. A soldier understands those silences, even if you cannot. The Iraq Squillini found was a desert, a place where the 110-115 degree temperatures fuel the foul smelling air emitting from Bagdad's sewage and garbage. That, she said, was the hardest thing to get used to. For the most part, though, she was busy from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. working in the engineering division where all of the construction and design of Iraq was done. The soldiers bunked in trailers but the trailers did not have plumbing facilities. That meant walking to another trailer that was set up for that purpose. Baseball games were the order of the day on Saturdays. But, Squillini found the four-day rest and relaxation passes were "the best." They were taken to Kathar where they were able to get massages and have their nails done. While the Monroe-Woodbury graduate said there wasn't much interaction with the local people, she said she found it amusing "how the Iraq men just love American women." Mail call also was something to look forward to, especially "the juice boxes." "That was a great idea whoever thought of sending them," Squillini said. "We really appreciated all the gift packages that were sent to us." At the beginning, Squillini's mother was not too concerned for her daughter's safety. "She was in an Army compound. So, I assumed she was safe. I had no idea they were bombing and shooting all around our soldiers." Then came the day when Squillini was injured. She still cannot talk about the two soldiers in her unit who are not coming home. All that she will say is that she has an injured knee. Her trip home from Iraq took her to Romania, Iceland, Maine and Fort Drum in upstate New York. Then on Dec. 17, the State Police and New Windsor Police Department escorted the bus that brought Squillini and her fellow troops (which also included John Seeley of Monroe) to their home base at Stewart Airport. It was there she was awarded five medals for her service in the Army Reserve. For Mrs. Squillini, her daughter's return means she doesn't have to go to bed crying anymore. "Life is better now. The minute I saw her I just stopped - and then I couldn't wait to hug her. It was just great."