When U.S. Army Sgt. Eddie Resinto of Puhi returned to Hawai’i in February after a year of combat and police duties in Baghdad, he wondered whether he could make an easy transition back to civilian life.
Resinto said he lived a year of his life in Baghdad on the edge, spending the first two months of his tour on patrol and the final 10 months manning checkpoints at Camp Victory in Baghdad, home to thousands of U.S. military personnel fighting against the insurgency in Iraq.
But Resinto, an employee with Honsador Lumber on Kaua’i, said the sight of 900 students at Wilcox School shouting happily and singing at an assembly yesterday at the school in support of his sacrifices and that of other soldiers of Company A, 2nd Battalion 299 Infantry made him realize “I am home.”
“I get emotional, and I see these kids giving us support,” Resinto said. “And this support makes the transition easier for me.”
Also treated to a warm welcome were PFC Lindon Valenciano, Sgt. Teofilo C. Serrano, SSG Armin G. Tumaneng, Staff Sgt. Steven Cardinez, Specialist Rodney Sasil and Sgt. Nelson Acosta, all residents of Kaua’i.
All of the Kaua’i troops of the 229 infantry unit were elated when their tour of duty ended and they flew out of Kuwait in January, bound for Hawai’i, Resinto said.
Although he said he is happy to be back home, the war has left him more somber, said his wife Shanlyne Resinto.
“He is a different person,” said Shanlyne Resinto, who accompanied him to yesterday’s student assembly at the school. “More serious and more quiet.”
But, she said, she expects her husband to rebound. “I think he will be back to him-self in six months,” she said with a smile as she pretended to punch her husband’s stomach. “But we are just happy to have him back.”
Resinto said he has to get used to living his old life. “I have to get used to the situation. We have been gone for a year,” he said. “Right now we are trying to relax, to enjoy and go fishing.”
He said he wants to spend more time with his two teen-aged sons as well. Partly due to debriefings after his tour of duty, Resinto said he has not suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.
“It depends on the soldier,” he said.
Resinto said the support of his family helped keep him emotionally strong when he was stationed in Iraq.
Resinto said he wanted to do his duty, and asked for the tough assignments.
For his first two months in Baghdad, Resinto participated in twice-daily patrols outside the city, because “I wanted the action.”
Whenever the soldiers around him were shot at by insurgents, the soldiers would respond with gunfire. What proved frustrating for him, Resinto said, was that “after they shoot, they hide,” referring to the insurgents.
For his final 10 months in Iraq, he manned checkpoints leading to Camp Victory, a military stronghold in Baghdad that was home to more than 5,000 Marines, sailors, soldiers and airmen.
Schools across Kaua’i have honored returning Hawai’i-based veterans from Iraq. Wilcox School has thrown three assemblies since last year to honor the soldiers.
Angela Farias of Wailua, who has two children attending Wilcox School, has attended two assemblies at the school honoring returning veterans.
Farias feels recognition should be continually heaped upon the veterans.
“I am here for the kids,” she said. “But we can never thank the soldiers enough for serving our country. Recognition, you can never give enough.”
Teachers and students at Wilcox sent hundreds of “care packages” and letters of support while the Hawai’i troops were deployed in Iraq.
Soldiers who were recognized at assemblies held at the school in the past said the support buoyed their spirits and helped them get over rough times during their deployment.
The students and teachers at the school continued to show their support to the troops even though all are home in Hawai’i.
In reflecting on that support yesterday, Resinto said,”Thank you for the packages you sent out there … we have been working hard. Thanks to Jesus, and keep us safe, returning us to loving families, uncles and aunties.”
The teachers and the students put together 135 “Mahalo” bags to be distributed to Kaua’i members of the 299th Infantry unit.
In response, Cardinez presented to the school an American flag that was flown over the Alfaw Palace in Baghdad, one of many palaces that belonged to deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
The neatly-folded flag was protected in a glass, wooden frame case. In addition, the soldiers presented a certificate confirming the flag had been flown in Iraq and a T-shirt signed by the soldiers of the 299th Infantry.
- Lester Chang, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) and email@example.com