This is the time of the year for families to gather and one local family couldn’t be happier to be reunited with one of their loved ones. Long-time Naperville resident Eric Pahnke is an army captain who has spent the last 15 months in Iraq and is now home for Christmas.
“It is the best gift…definitely the best gift to have my entire family with me,” says Eric’s mother, Jude Pahnke.
Pahnke started his military career in December of 1992 when he went into the Air Force as an avionics technician. After serving, he went to college for four years and then joined the army, eventually becoming a captain.
Pahnke knows what it’s like to be overseas for the holidays. Pahnke and his troops finished a 12-month tour in Iraq culminating in September, when they returned to their base in Alaska.
“It sucks that you’re over there but in the same aspect you gotta make do with what you have,” says Eric Pahnke.
Family, friends, and even strangers endured the bitter cold to welcome the soldier home. Donna Morsovillo put together the homecoming. She founded Operation Welcome You Home in 2007. She says it’s important to put together a special welcoming for all members of our military.
“We need to do this for our returning soldiers and marines because they need to know how much we support and thank them for what they’re doing,” says Morsovillo. “We need to make sure they feel like they’re the VIPs that they are.”
Local veteran George Cobb agrees. “They’re giving up all kinds of personal things to be out there protecting us, not only risking their lives but they’re giving up being with their families, in many cases being home for the holidays.”
The support from friends and family will make this year’s Christmas one the Pahnke’s will never forget.
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