After spending nine months in Kosovo combating human trafficking and counterfeiting, and doing his part to keep the peace, Pfc. Christopher Petrossian-Rainville was rewarded for his sacrifice by being able to hold his 9-month-old daughter and wife on Thursday.
"I'm home for good," said the 2004 Lodi High School graduate. "I'm looking forward to spending time with my family."
Just in time for Thanksgiving, roughly 115 National Guard troops were reunited with their families at the Stockton Metropolitan Airport on Thursday after serving in Kosovo.
Cheryl Petrossian-Rainville, Christopher's wife, smiled brightly as the two kissed and whispered to each other.
Their infant daughter, Carilyn, who was dressed in a brown fleece outfit to protect her from the chilly November wind, was cradled in Christopher Petrossian-Rainville's left arm as he embraced his wife.
"I was here when she was born," he said. "But this is the first time I have held her in months."
He said she had grown considerably since he last saw her.
Petrossian-Rainville and his fellow soldiers were in Kosovo because United States armed forces have supplemented NATO peacekeeping forces there for the last 10 years. Their mission is the second in the last four years in which members of the California National Guard have been deployed to Kosovo. They were stationed less than 30 miles from the Serbian border at Camp Bondsteel.
At 9:30 a.m., their plane landed in Stockton and the troops emerged, Cheryl Petrossian-Rainville said.
Christopher Petrossian-Rainville said the National Guard's job in Kosovo was peacekeeping missions and keeping the area safe and secure. He said counterfeiting both Bosnian and American currency is one of the crimes they paid special attention to, as well as human trafficking.
As family members waved signs and cheered for their returning heroes, the soldiers looked forward to returning to their loved ones and hobbies.
Oakdale resident and National Guard member Warren Colbert said he had big plans for something he had been waiting months to do.
"I can't wait to go pheasant hunting," he said.
When asked when he would get to do it, Colbert looked at his watch and said as soon as he got home.
For Modestan and soldier Joshua Frey, home cooking and family were his biggest rewards.
"I can't wait for some of mom's salami rollups," he said. "They are filled with cream cheese and pepperoncinis."