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Surprise homecoming irresistible, says Carpentersville GI

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( H. Rick Bamman – hbamman@shawmedia.com)
Army PFC Eric Luna of Carpentersville hugs his sister Ivette Luna during English class Friday at Dundee Crown High School. The soldier, who just returned from a combat tour in southern Afghanistan, kept his return to Illinois a surprise.

CARPENTERSVILLE – On his return home, Army Pfc. Eric Luna simply had to keep his anticipated arrival a surprise.

Luna, who spent the past seven months in Afghanistan, made his homecoming into an unforgettable moment, surprising his parents and sister Friday by showing up unannounced at their work and school.

The 2010 Dundee Crown High School graduate said he wanted his homecoming to be special after watching video and seeing the reactions of other families of soldiers’ homecomings.

“They were excited,” Luna said, content that he pulled off the surprise. “They were extremely happy to see me.”

He spent his tour patrolling the streets of Kandahar Province in southern Afghanistan, weeding out fighters of the al-Qaida terrorist network.

Luna and his his comrades came under fire a few times, he said. He recalled one “close call” – a translator behind him was shot while they were on patrol.

After completing his tour, he returned to Fort Bragg, N.C., in early September. His family got to see him get off the plane then, but the opportunity to surprise them in person was too irresistible, he said.

Luna said he hasn’t regretted enlisting in the Army after spending a year-and-a-half at Northern Illinois University. He said he enjoys the camaraderie of his fellow soldiers and that made the decision not to finish college because he sensed a need to act and serve the country.

While abroad, he said he learned to appreciate the freedoms and the quality life his parents built for the family.

He now plans to spend his time with friends and family and then finish out two more years of service. At that point, he’ll be done with overseas duty and will stay stateside to do some training, he said.

For now, though, Luna said he is simply happy to be home.

“Most definitely,” he said. “It’s a weird transition. I still haven’t gotten used to the freedom and being able to relax.”

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