“I am so thrilled,” said Linda Bakker, whose son, Army Spc. Nicholas Myers, returned home from Afghanistan on Friday evening. “It's just awesome.”
Bakker said this is the first time the family will be together for Christmas in three years, and the first time she's seen her son in more than a year.
Myers, 23, said he feels fortunate to reunite with his family — not just for the holiday, but at all. The 2010 Spring Lake High School graduate watched his squad leader, Sgt. Robert Billings of Morley, die from a fatal explosive in October.
However, Myers said he doesn't like to talk about Billings' death.
“I encountered a lot of IEDs (improvised explosive device),” he said. “I've stepped on some that didn't blow up.”
Bakker made a yellow wreath for her Spring Lake Township home's entry door. Her husband of 10 months, Randy Bakker; her other children, Abbie, 12, and Bailey, 13; and Nicholas' girlfriend, Morgan Wildrom, greeted Myers with a homemade sign on the front porch.
Myers hid some Christmas presents, then the family browsed photo boards on the living room couch.
“It feels really good to be here,” he said. “Being that far away from family and around a totally different culture is mind-blowing. You think you're there trying to wind hearts and minds, but you're really there trying to defend yourself.”