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Soldier on leave surprises family for Christmas

Specialist Troy Crews returns from Afghanistan

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After spending half a year overseas, a local soldier and his family are getting the best Christmas gift of all. Specialist Troy Crews was on active duty in Afghanistan and his family is thankful to have their hero back home for Christmas.

With Christmas music playing in the background and tears in her eyes, Susan Piepoli wrapped her arms around her son, the 21-year old specialist, right after he got off the plane.

Six days later, on Christmas morning, she said she is proud to have him home with the whole family, right by her side.

"I'm just glad to have both my children here -- not that he's in harm's way anymore," Piepoli said.

Crews is stationed at Fort Polk, Louisiana, but for the last six months he was on deployment in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Crews comes from a family with a history of military service but said it was his cousin, Adam, who inspired him to serve.

"This is the most important time of the year for me because this is the only time I get to see my family while I'm away. This is the only time I get to see them -- that's what means the most to me," Crews said. "I always wanted to protect my country and what I loved. I just feel blessed that I get to do that."

Now that this family is moving forward together, Crews said it's the little things, like opening gifts that seem so much more special.

"I got a knife, some movie tickets and a gift card to Starbucks," Crews said.

Still, there are thoughts for those still serving overseas and their families unable to see them this Christmas.

"There's people here that love them and want them back just as much as they want to be back," Piepoli said when asked what encouraging messages she has for other families."

"I just want to wish all my brothers and sisters that are still over there, I wish them a Merry Christmas. Please be safe," Crews said.

Crews will be in Jacksonville with his family until Jan. 5, when he goes back to Louisiana. But while he's here, he said he's getting a lot of rest, enjoying a soft, comfortable bed and, of course, making up for lost time with his loved ones.


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