Local Heroes Return from Long Year in Iraq - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

4/10/04

Local Heroes Return from Long Year in Iraq

It was a tearful reunion Saturday afternoon at the Lubbock International Airport. After over a year of being in Iraq, several soldiers came home to their families. NewsChannel 11 was there.

"I'm happy because my brother's coming home," says Susie Esparza with tears flowing down her cheeks.

First class Sergeant Richard Esparza arrives with a fleet of loved ones welcoming him.

"He's served the country a lot of years, and we're just ready for him to stay home," adds Susie.

The grandfather of six and active in the army for 32 years, Sergeant Esparza is ready to start a new chapter in his life.

"Oh yeah, I'm going to retire," he confesses.

Among the arrivals, a Texas Tech professor who joined the Army Reserve only three years ago, never imagining he would be sent to fight the war in Iraq.

"I didn't expect to be in charge of a detachment, going to war so quickly, but we made it fine and everybody came back safe. We did our jobs and that's all we can ask for," says Captain Richard Dickerson.

While away, Captain Dickerson's wife, Lynn, fought a battle of her own.

"It's been kind of a strain on Lynn because she teaches the courses I wasn't teaching, and along with being a single parent. So, she had to do both my jobs," he says.

"Every time it was hard for me, I thought it must be harder for him and that's what kept me going," says Lynn.

But Captain Dickerson is grateful for his sacrifice.

"I just think it was overall a positive experience. It gave me a new perspective on how things are. It allowed me to feel like I was doing something for my country," says Captain Dickerson.

"It's difficult to be left behind and it's difficult to see them go, so we're really glad to have them back," adds Lynn.

Captain Dickerson will resume teaching at Tech in the fall of 2004, but he will continue his research in June.

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