Soldier Returns Home for Holidays with Family After End of War

Plus: Students React to End of War

By Tony Aguilar
Coachella Unincorporated

On December 15, the war in Iraq officially ended after nearly nine years and the loss of nearly 4,500 American lives and after more than 30,000 troops were wounded. One of those wounded—a Thermal soldier—returned home this December unexpectedly in the wee hours of the morning with a special surprise for his family now that the war was over.

With the help of his younger brother, 23-year-old Adrian Aguilar snuck into his childhood home and surprised his mother with the good news. The forward observer for the United States Army would be spending the holiday season with his family and ring in the New Year by their side, instead of at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. After a stint in Afghanistan, this was welcome news for the family.

But then came the real surprise… He soon would be returning to Afghanistan for a second tour of duty.

Aguilar was born in the rural unincorporated community of Thermal and raised by his single mother, Maria or “Molly,” as she’s referred to at the local school district where she works. Like his older brother, Andres, Adrian joined the Armed Forces shortly after graduating from Coachella Valley High School.

“This January will mark the two year anniversary of my service for my county and in those two years, I’ve only been home twice and I already have to go back to the Middle East… again,” Aguilar said.

“Molly” says that having two sons in the military is not for the faint-hearted.

“When I first heard my oldest son Andres would be going to Iraq I was shocked,” she said. “I didn’t know what to believe but when I heard Adrian would be deployed to Afghanistan at the same time, my heart sunk. As a mother it is hard having two of my sons thousands of miles away in harms way knowing that there is nothing I can do to protect them.”

In his early 20s, Adrian has already had a close call and was injured. He was on a reconnaissance mission in the hills of Afghanistan when a group of Taliban insurgents set off charges in the school building he and his squadron were inspecting.

“That was one of the worst phone calls I have ever received,” “Molly” said, adding that an overseas commander told her that Adrian had been hurt in Afghanistan. “It’s something that no parent should have to experience. The most frustrating part was that I couldn’t do anything to help my son. The phone call was short. ‘Your son has been hurt but is in stable condition.’ I had to play the waiting game and finally two days later I received a phone call from my son. He told me he was okay and I was finally able to stop worrying.”

Adrian says such incidents make him cherish every chance he gets to come back home.
“I love the Coachella Valley, Thermal the most,” he said. “I’ve lived here my whole life and everything I love is here… friends and family, but mostly family.”

“Molly” said there are mixed emotions with Adrian’s return.

“I am happy that he is home,” she said. “I cherish the time I am able to spend with my sons when they come home from being overseas, but knowing that Adrian is going back to the Middle East brings back those memories that I don’t wish to experience again and taints the good time I should be having.”

Coachella Unincorporated Correspondents React to End of War

Despite being a nine-year battle that cost nearly 4,500 American lives and wounded more than 30,000, the war in Iraq ended to little fanfare on December 15. Coachella Unincorporated student journalists react to news of the end of the war.

“I can barely remember when the U.S. was not at war and more than anything, it has given me insight and fears. United we may have stood out in the field but domestically our involvement in the Middle East has left us vulnerable. The tragedy that once bonded us in an idealistic plight promoting freedom has fueled a political war here at home. These new divisions and fear have left me, as well as the general public, skeptical of the governmental powers at large.

Disenchantment from the War in Iraq has marked the legacy of our generation, one where the dawn of a new era of mass media communication wields the tool of social media to seek truth.”

Aurora Saldivar
Coachella Unincorporated
Student, College of the Desert

“Because of the war in Iraq many financial opportunities have dwindled for me. I did not feel any immediate effects when our country was in the early years of the war but in the long run, expenses on the war meant less money spent on institutions that provide for people in need.”

Alejandra Alarcon
Coachella Unincorporated
Student, Coachella Valley High School

“Well, I have never served in the Armed Forces, so my life has been pretty much detached from the war in Iraq. The war in Iraq has not affected my life dramatically, but I do know that it has been the little things that have changed the country and united it. Over the years, I have found myself to be that much prouder to be an American.”

Ivan Delgado
Coachella Unincorporated
Student, College of the Desert

“You see it all over the news, hear it get accused of causing our economic problems, and being called a waste of time; however, I can see no direct connection in which the Iraq war has affected me. All I can do when I think about the war is worry. Worry about how it can affect my future by the U.S. continually spending on the war. But most of the time, I don’t think even think about it, and even forget that we’re in a war at all.”

Roger Montaño
Coachella Unincorporated
Student, Coachella Valley High School

“My life has not been directly affected by the war in Iraq. I was only seven when the 9/11 attacks happened, and was too young to comprehend the immensity of what was happening in our country. The war came and went, and I did not see my loved ones depart to fight for our country, but I did see how our country was influenced by it. It has greatly influenced the way in which Americans view people of a Muslim background, and for me personally, I feel like it opened new doors to learn new things. I can honestly say that because of the war in Iraq, I became more interested in learning about how life in that part of the world is. I wanted to see the war from both sides, to get a complete view of it. I think it greatly influenced my personal interest to learn about different cultures and how culture affects relations between nations.”

Maricruz Cabrera
Coachella Unincorporated
Student, Coachella Valley High School

“Almost on an everyday basis, I deal with America’s mixed emotions, the patriotic and the anti-military. I deal with the American public’s reference to the US Armed Forces as ‘We’ when many Americans have decided against serving their country. While Americans were wasting away on drugs, alcohol, and the Jersey Shore, WE as in my fellow servicemen and women were overseas fighting a war created by members of the US Government who never stepped foot on combatant soil.

For those ‘Americans’ who are so anti-military, anti-Veteran, or whatever they claim to be, we have an old saying. ‘If you can’t stand behind our troops, feel free to stand in front of them.’”

Ray Bondad
Coachella Unincorporated
Student, College of the Desert
US Army, Served in Iraq

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