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19 soldiers return home to Hawaii just in time for Christmas

By LEILA FUJIMORI | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser | Published: December 25, 2018

HONOLULU (Tribune News Service) — “I’ll be home for Christmas.”

That’s what 19 soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division, deployed nine months in various U.S. Army post offices in the Middle East, were lucky enough to tell their families and friends in Hawaii.

The soldiers, originally scheduled to return Dec. 29, were reunited with loved ones Christmas Eve following an 8 p.m. ceremony at Schofield Barracks.

Maj. Gen. Ronald P. Clark, the commander of the 25th Infantry Division, emphasized to his staff “to do all they can to get them home before Christmas,” said a spokesman with the 25th Infantry Division public affairs office.

That included a military flight from Kuwait to Ireland and commercial flights from Ireland to Texas, Texas to Arizona and Arizona to Hawaii.

“It took a team effort across the services to get them home,” said Lt. Col. Curtis Kellogg, including the local division staff and the U.S. Central Command in the region.

The soldiers had been serving with the Postal Platoon of the 259th Human Resources Company, 25th Sustainment Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, and had completed their mission of postal operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries.

Ivelisse Luciano, 40, embraced her husband, Sgt. 1st Class William Luciano, and said, “It felt awesome.”

Her husband was away for nine “very lonely” months, she said. The couple’s daughter is in college in Austin, Texas, which has made it harder for Luciano to be without him, she said.

The couple will wait until Thursday, when their daughter gets home, to celebrate Christmas. It was the fourth deployment for William Luciano.

Ivelisse Luciano has had three Christmases without her husband, but until the surprise return Monday, this was the worst because her daughter also is gone.

“Now, I’m happy,” she said.

Sgt. Chantell Delonby, 27, was surrounded by her friends hoisting a sign that read, “Welcome home, roomie.”

“It’s great to be back home with my friends,” Delonby said. Her friends corrected her, shouting, “We’re family.”

Delonby said her mother is in Florida, and Monday was her mother’s birthday. Delonby couldn’t make it to Florida, but had a video chat with her mother from the Honolulu airport to wish her a happy birthday.

Delonby said she plans to cook and to open presents today with her friends.

Sgt. Vinica Greenidge-Smith, 33, cried as she was met by her husband, Gregory Smith, 43, and their three kids, ages 11, 8 and 3. The whole family wore Santa outfits and carried flowers and balloons for the mom who returned just in time.

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