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by Brittany Yap, associate editor

The 19-year-old from Fajaima, American Samoa is in the 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry Army Reserves attached to the 29th Brigade. He spent approximately half a year training in Texas and Louisiana before serving a year-long deployment in Balad, Iraq.

Solia returned to U.S. soil on Dec. 30 with more than 80 other soldiers from Hawai‘i, American Samoa, Guam, Saipan, and the U.S. mainland. They were all greeted with a “welcome home” ceremony at Kalaeloa (formerly Barber’s Point NAS). A hangar was decked out with colorful “welcome home” signs and patriotic balloons, while families brought fresh leis. Soldiers lined up in formation by height and marched into the hangar to the sounds of the Army band playing the theme song from the movie Rocky.

Solia’s aunty and cousin from Nanakuli were there to greet him. The excitement in the building exploded with applause and screams as family members found familiar faces in the sea of soldiers. Every family had a camera ready to capture the long anticipated reunion. A large projection screen in the background proclaimed “Welcome Home Heroes!”

Governor Linda Lingle and Hawai‘i National Guard Brig. Gen. Vern Miyagi were on hand with speeches, after which the singing of Hawai‘i Pono‘i closed the 10-minute ceremony, and soldiers were released to their families and friends.

Solia said, reminiscing about his experiences in Iraq, “There is a God and prayers were answered.” Solia was a infantryman who went on daily patrols off base where he and his platoon looked for improvised explosive devices (IEDs), weapons, and questioned anti-American forces. One of their main jobs was to secure the military base. When Solia first got to Iraq, he was pleasantly surprised by their living conditions, because he expected worse. According to Solia, he, and two other roommates, lived in a trailer that had electricity and Internet connection. He enjoyed the free food and got used to not having any bills to pay.

“ The food was better than we had in Fort Bliss, Texas,” said Solia.

He recalls seeing the poor standard of living the Iraqis have and watching the children drink out of dirty canals.

“ Being there made me thankful of the way I grew up and for my family,” said Solia.

According to Solia, one of the things he enjoys most about being on American soil is “not being stressed out.” He also said that he feels freer being at home. So far, he has enjoyed spending time with his family and friends and looks forward to getting a job. By serving in Iraq this past year, he earned his U.S. citizenship and is seriously thinking of making Hawai‘i his new home.

In Iraq, Solia got used to sleeping for short periods of time due to his work schedule, but now that he’s back home, he can relax. Getting back to a normal sleeping pattern has been one of the hardest adjustments for him.
 


Pvt. Haqueen Solia, alongside 84 other fellow soldiers, were greeted by family and friends and fariends at a "welcome home cemeremony" held in their honor on Dec. 30 at a hangar in Kalaeloa. All soldiers were in the 29th Brigade Combat Team.

Photo by James Young

 

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