Family’s Ultimate Christmas Gift: Son’s Safe Return From Iraq

STREAMWOOD, Ill. (CBS) — A community’s love was felt on Monday as a hometown soldier returned home from war.

With the war in Iraq now a completed mission, thousands of soldiers are returning home and, as CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole reports, the relief of having their son back with them is the best of Christmas presents for the Rundquist family in Streamwood.

For U.S. Army Sgt. Eric Rundquist, returning from Iraq on the day after Christmas, the morning began with welcomes to spare, including embraces of relief from his grandmother and mom.

“I’m very blessed. Three tours and he came back three times,” Rundquist’s mother said.

With American flags waving, a parade of volunteers escorted the soldier to his Streamwood home, where Rundquist finally cut the yellow ribbon away from the tree in his front yard.

Asked what it felt like to see friends and neighbors lining up to shake his hand and slap him on the back, Rundquist said, “Unexplainable, really; just overjoyed, very happy. I just felt loved, you know?”

Rundquist, 27, was one of the seven last soldiers to leave Basrah, where he led a security escort responsible for guarding a colonel. Their caravan was no stranger to roadside bombings.

“First, the adrenaline rush and then your mind goes straight into making sure your soldiers are okay,” Rundquist said. “Sometimes I surprised myself; like when you are put in certain situations, you look back at, I mean, you go, ‘Wow, I handled it pretty well.’”

In a family with a tradition of military service, his parents know not all can share their blessings.

His father, Michael Rundquist said, “I also think of the 4,500 families who don’t have the privilege of what we have today. So it’s bittersweet, I suppose.

“Whether or not anybody agreed with the mission that was going on in Iraq, we had the support from the people of the United States, you know?” Sgt. Rundquist said.

Rundquist is only home until next week, then he reports back to base. After three tours of duty, he is deciding whether to re-enlist. He says there are still adventures in the military he would like to experience.

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