Katherine Arevalo, 6, shows off her dog tags with a picture of her father, Dionicio. He made it for her when he left for duty in May 2003. Dionicio will return home in a few weeks.

There’s a Christmas tree standing in the living room of
Katherine Arevalo’s home
– it’s out of season, but it’s there for good reason.
It’s there for her dad.
There’s a Christmas tree standing in the living room of Katherine Arevalo’s home – it’s out of season, but it’s there for good reason.

It’s there for her dad.

“When he gets back, I want to give him all of his gifts,” 6-year-old Katherine said.

Her father, Dionicio Arevalo, has been deployed in Iraq since May 2003. When he gets home in the next few weeks, he’ll find more than presents under the tree and a warm welcome from Katherine, his wife, Rosse, and the rest of his family. He’ll see another little person that can’t wait to greet him – his 7-month-old namesake Dionicio Arevalo III, born on Sept. 11, 2003.

“Right before he left in May, I was able to visit him in Washington and he got to feel the baby kick,” Rosse said. “Since then all he has seen of his son are pictures every two weeks or so.”

A member of the National Guard 870th Division, Dionicio is a gunner for the military police, and until last week when he was finally flown to U.S. soil, he was stationed in Kabul, Iraq.

His mother, Petra, received a call Tuesday morning, and not knowing what to expect, she answered.

“I heard his voice and he said ‘Mom I’m in Washington,'” Petra said. “I was so happy.”

Knowing Dionicio is safe, and awaiting his return home to Hollister in the next few weeks has filled the Arevalo home with joy and anticipation, but just like other families with loved ones overseas, it hasn’t been easy having him gone.

A complicated pregnancy, a young daughter asking where daddy went and having to hospitalize her children for high fevers numerous times worried Rosse. But watching the nightly news worried her more.

“I tried to not watch the news and keep myself away from it, but I just couldn’t,” she said. “I would watch to see if maybe I would see him or if they would give information about his squad. It really stressed me out.”

The year away from home hasn’t been easy for Dionicio either. He missed his son’s birth and a special day for his daughter.

“Ironically, he called real early one morning and said ‘what are you doing up this early?'” Rosse said. “I told him that it was Kat’s first day of school and I was taking her. He was so upset he was missing it.”

Rosse said missing Kat’s first day of kindergarten was rough on him, which is why his daughter made sure he didn’t miss her first lost tooth.

“She mailed him the tooth and wrote a note saying ‘daddy I lost my lucky tooth and here it is for you,'” Rosse explained. “A few weeks later he called me and said one day when they were under attack he had the tooth with him so it must have been lucky.”

Though they are half a world apart, the Arevalos have been able to use modern technology to share the twists and turns of their daily lives. Dionicio was lucky enough to be stationed where he could e-mail his wife and children almost every other day.

“It was great during the first few months his son was born,” Rosse said. “Every time I would be up feeding or nursing him I would e-mail him saying ‘this is your 2 a.m. wake up call’ and tell him what I was doing. He said it really made him feel like he was part of everything even though he was so far away.”

Jennifer Morrow, co-president of CinCHouse.com, the largest online support group for military wives and girlfriends, said even though not all troops have Internet access, it has improved communication.

“The advance in technology has made things 100 percent better,” she said. “A lot of reservist wives don’t live close to a base, so having this support system allows them to log on and talk to others or access educational information.”

Operation Homefront, a nonprofit that helps military families while their loved ones are deployed, helps provide families with computers so they can have that connection. Operation Homefront has donated more than 600 computers during the past year to needy families, Executive Director Ernie Leidiger said.

“A lot of the problems that spouses at home encounter can be resolved by e-mail because it relieves stress and the unknown,” he said.

Dionicio is expected to be home for a few years, but whether he’ll have to head back overseas is unclear for now.

“He may be going to Bosnia in the future, but it’s really all up in the air,” Rosse said. “We’re just so happy to have him coming home now.”

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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