Soldier home after tour of duty in Iraq
June 5, 2012 (CHICAGO) (WLS) -- Army Specialist Ott Blanco reunited with his family Tuesday morning after serving in Iraq since 2010.
Family, friends, and members of his church all lined up to welcome homeBlanco at Chicago's O'Hare Airport.
"It's honorable when your community honors you," said Blanco, standing next to his grandfather.
Tomas Lozada, Blanco's grandfather, is a Korean War vet who was awarded a Purple Heart while his grandson was in Iraq.
"He said, 'I want to be like my grandpa, because I want to be in the Army,' and he's happy to have me alive with the Purple Heart," said Lozada.
Now that the family is back together, they plan to savor every moment.
"I am just overwhelmed," said Ott Blanco Sr. "I'm so happy that he's back, safe and sound...I'm honored that he served his country, now he's here to serve his community."
"I'm so happy that my son is safe," said Elizabeth Blanco, mother. "My heart feels so good."
Blanco had been stationed in Hawaii for three years before being deployed to Iraq where he's been ever since.
"It had its hardships but we got through it, and luckily everyone in my platoon made it back," he said.
And although Blanco appreciated the love he got, he wants to make sure his comrades are loved too.
"It's those soldiers that are out there in Afghanistan and Iraq that we need to pray for and honor," he said.
So what's next on his agenda? Blanco says he wants to take some time to relax. They are starting things off with his favorite: Mom's good old fashioned Puerto Rican stew.
"He wants a home cooked meal," said Irma Cornier, sister.
Ott Blanco Jr. says he is ready to go back to school for fire science and he hopes to one day be a fireman serving his community.
local, diane pathieu
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