NewsChannel 11 has been following Marine Lance Corporal Alex Villapuda since he left for Iraq January 1st. We've been checking in with his mother Sandra Perkins as she followed the war on TV, now Alex is home in Lubbock.
"Butterflies, I'm afraid he's going to be too different. He said there's a lot he has to talk about. I just hope I can be there for him," says Sandra Perkins, Alex's mother.
A mother, a sister, a family waits anxiously for the arrival of Lance Corporal Alex Villapuda, an 18-year-old that has become a hero in a matter of months.
"Then I feel guilty he's coming home and the rest of them are still there. It breaks my heart that someone 18 had to go there, what he went through. He says mom I'm almost 19-years-old and I've helped free a country and I've survived a war cluthching the Marine and American flags in hand," Sandra Perkins is about to be reunited with her son.
As his family welcomes him home for the first time in five months, Alex tells of the welcome he received from the Iraqis. "They love us, they gave us free food, pepsi they offered me their daughters." And one freed Iraqi, offered Alex his respect.
"I met this one guy while we were providing security on a bridge outside of bagdad and he was translating for us, he knew a lot of english and we got to be pretty close, although I only knew him for a couple of days actually as we were leaving he ran to me and handed me this picture, I said who's this and he said his mom and I said thank you and he explained two years ago, Saddam had asked his dad to join the military and his dad refused so Saddam sent the batth party to take out his parents. He said it was a sign of frienship and respect to thank me for everything we've done there everything like risking his life for his country and theirs. I was at the front of everything. We kept getting ambushed over and over again. When it happens, you don't really think you just pick up a weapon and start shooting," says Alex.
Just shy of his 19th birthday Alex is home. "I'm happiest he got to walk of that plane and I'm happy that we don't have to have a service for him," says Sandra.
"You can't not change you go to war and see that stuff. I mean I was shot at. That never happend here, you have to grow up," says Alex.
Alex is on leave for 15 days and will celebrate his 19th birthday on Monday. He's trying to stay home for another 15 days, so he can spend more time with his father who is in the hospital. Then he'll return to California to train new recruits.