By Jen Bakken
“My mom is here! My mom is here!” announced Elise Larson as her mom walked through the door of Linda Schmidt’s first grade classroom at Delano Elementary School.
This year, Elise and her younger brother, William, can thank dear ol’ Santa for delivering something surely at the top of their Christmas wish lists sending their mom home for the holidays.
Army National Guard Chief Warrant Officer Emily Larson arrived home Dec. 14 after several months stationed in Iraq. Though she will be returning Dec. 30 to Joint Base Balad, just north of Baghdad, she is thankful to be with her family.
Emily has lived in Delano her whole life, and graduated from Delano High School in 1984. Her husband, Everett Larson, and their two children actually live in the home she grew up in.
Her parents, Fred and Arlene Zieske, now live in Watertown, and are members of the Delano American Legion. The whole family is proud of Emily and grateful to spend the holidays with her.
“It’s great to be home,” said Emily Larson. “It’s not easy being away, but it helps to have the support that I do. With the school, Tiger Kids Club, my great husband, my parents, and my mother in-law, I know everyone is OK while I’m gone.”
For more than 17 years, she has been in the Army National Guard, with three of those being in active duty. Under Task Force 34, she works in a military IT department. As a civilian, she also works in IT for Quadion Corp in Plymouth, and the company has sent her packages and been very helpful, she said.
Her daughter, Elise, is in Linda Schmidt’s first grade class at Delano Elementary School, and as a group, the students wrote a letter to Emily, sending her a handmade papier mâché flag. Emily proudly displayed the letter and flag in Iraq, and she also raised a flag in honor of the Delano American Legion, as well.
During her time home, Emily visited with her daughter’s class and her son’s kindergarten class taught by Barb Stoffel. She showed the students pictures from Iraq, talked about her uniform, taught them how to stand at attention, and answered their questions.
She was stopped a few times in the hallway of Delano Elementary School and thanked by staff members for serving the country.
“It’s nice to be thanked,” she said. “But, I’m just as thankful to them and knowing my kids are in good hands.”
It took four days of travel to get Emily home to her family, and soon; it will take just as long to return to Iraq, but in June, this soldier is scheduled to return to civilian life and her awaiting Delano family for good.
While she is away, keeping in touch through AT&T calling centers, the Internet, and having a connection to home through the Delano Herald Journal is important to her.
“Being in an aviation brigade, we are very busy and we have very little free time. We do feel the support as friends, loved ones, and strangers send us letters and/or packages and good will,” she said.
“One thing that is comforting to me is that I have been able to do is read to my kids through a program called ‘United Through Reading.’ This is a program through the USO where I select a book, read it to my kids via DVD, and the USO mails the book and DVD to them,” she said. “That has been a very comforting opportunity, and my kids and husband enjoy being able to clearly see me on TV.”