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Victoria soldier returns home after Afghanistan tour

By Camille Doty
June 1, 2011 at 1:01 a.m.
Updated June 2, 2011 at 1:02 a.m.

Tears of joy in her eyes, Kristina Mascorro hugs her brother Army Specialist San Francisco Mascorro Jr. as he is greeted by his extended family at the Victoria Regional Airport. A veteran of duty in Afghanistan and Germany, Mascorro was happy to be home on leave.

Three generations of hopeful eyes stared out the airport terminal window, anxiously awaiting their soldier.

Victoria County Regional Airport was filled with American flags, welcome home signs and Army T-shirts.

Three-year-old Jazymn Knapp said, "When is Uncle Bubba coming?"

Her aunt, Kristina Mascorro, said, "These seconds feel like hours."

Time stood still as they waited for Army Specialist San Francisco Mascorro Jr. He could not get off the plane fast enough, and to add to the anticipation, he was the last person to step off the aircraft.

One family member jokingly said, "They must be saving the best for last."

Covered in a camouflage uniform, Spc. Mascorro walked through the door, holding a teddy bear.

He served in Afghanistan for one year and was most recently stationed in Germany. Relatives and loved ones in the room were overcome with emotion. There was hardly a dry eye in the terminal.

It seemed ironic a survivor of combat held onto a stuffed animal. But the 20-year-old Victoria native, kept his promise to carry it for his infant nephew, Luke Knapp.

And he held his sister's 9-month-old for the first time Wednesday.

The family held a wager about the first hug. His mother, Margie Mascorro, said, "We're going to give him a hug. The one who runs the fastest gets him first." And Mom won that race; she held him close for a few minutes. But to her, the embrace didn't last long enough. Her eyes were filled with tears of joy and relief.

The Army mom said she is aware of the responsibilities service personnel have - "I had to accept what he wanted, but I knew what could happen."

Kristina, 22, said, "... I love you ..." - family members rejoiced that they had the opportunity to say those three words again.

"I'm happy to have him home. He's my only son," said Francisco Mascorro Sr.

In September, his son was injured by a homemade bomb in Afghanistan. The window of the truck he was in busted his head.

But there was no hospital time for this soldier. "I went back to fight the next day," he said.

For his sacrifice, he received a Combat Action Badge. The Army specialist said, "Thank goodness everyone came back." Everyone in his unit is still alive.

He said it felt great to be home, but it comes with a sacrifice. He said being away from home and family is rough. "I want people to know how hard it is."

Depending on the mission, Mascorro Jr. would try to communicate with his family every two weeks. He calls his unit his brothers and made sure they also received gifts in his care packages.

In return, his family received thoughtful gifts. His oldest sister, Herminia Mascorro, said he bought her an afghan rug, "It's so nice, I won't even let it touch the floor," she said.

Facebook also helped the family to stay in touch because even if he couldn't talk, they could check his last login to make sure he was OK.

The Mascorros said Francisco needed no convincing to join the service. "Once he had his mind-set to serve, there was no turning back," his mother said. He passed his GED test so he could enlist in the army at 17.

He was inspired by his aunt and grandfather, Francisco Gonzalez.

The devoted grandfather would share his stories from Vietnam. The advice he gave to Moscorro Jr.: "Always take care of yourself first, so you can take care of others."

Francisco Jr. may have a tough exterior in combat, but he has a heart of gold when it comes to his family.

His youngest sister, Nikkita Mascorro, cried a lot when he left for Afghanistan. Her big brother sent money to buy her a puppy named Sugar. The maltipoo was also there in a two-piece, in stars and stripes of course.

During his leave, he said he was going to fish and ride his new motorcycle. His family said they can't wait to eat his homemade potatoes.

A caravan of Patriot Guard Riders later escorted the hometown hero to the Field of Honor. And he said it was an honor for him to ride on his motorcycle with the other men of service.

At the Field of Honor, Francisco Jr. gave a speech expressing his gratitude for all the support he has received.

"It was a long year, but this will be a blessed 40 days," he said.

His excited niece Jazymn said, "These 40 days are going to rock!"

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