Home from Philippines mission

Ten soldiers from the Hawai‘i National Guard 29th Infantry Brigade Combat Team returned home to Kaua‘i yesterday from the Philippines where they have spent that last six months in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

With cameras, welcome home signs and lei ready, family and friends gathered near the baggage claim at the Lihu‘e Airport, excited to see their loved ones.

For Jaime Frasco of Kekaha, it means finally getting to see her fiance Brandon Frasco again.

Friends since high school, Jaime and Brandon got engaged after he volunteered for the mission to the Philippines.

“We’re getting married in 2010,” Jaime said with a sigh. “But I support what he does, so it’s worth it.”

As Brandon walked through the gate, Jaime presented him with a maile and mokihana lei she made herself.

“It feels good to be home,” Brandon said after he posed for many photographs. “Especially when you volunteer for it.”

As he walked with his arm over Jaime’s shoulders, Brandon said the first thing he plans on doing when he gets home is “to take a hot shower and eat regular food.”

Though he was glad to see his son, James, Eugene Jimenez said it is a little hard on the family to have him gone.

“Before this, he was in Iraq for a year,” Eugene said. “He has two grown daughters.”

Now that he is home, Chad Lopez of Puhi plans to relax, but will be preparing to attend Kaua‘i Community College soon.

“It just feels great, it feels awesome to be home,” Lopez said.

The soldiers from the 29th Infantry Brigade were an element of the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines. The JSOTF-P has been an ongoing mission since 2002.

Stationed in the Southern Philippines, the soldiers provided security for Humanitarian Civic Action/Civil Military Operations such as engineering, medical support and community outreach projects, including improving schools, hospitals, wells and roads.

The soldiers also assisted and advised the Armed Forces of the Philippines in combating terrorism in the country.

The returning soldiers all volunteered for the mission to the Philippines. They are also veterans from the infantry’s deployment to Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005.

Around 30 soldiers from Hawai‘i were stationed in the Philippines.

• Rachel Gehrlein, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) or rgehrlein@kauaipubco.com.

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