FAIRBANKS - A return home by an Alaska-based Army brigade was doubly sweet for one family.
Ten-year-old Joshua Carrasco and his 5-year-old brother Joseph were at Fairbanks International Airport on Thursday to welcome home both their father and mother, Staff Sgt. Ramiro Carrasco and Sgt. 1st Class Melanie Carrasco. The couple spent a year on Iraq's Diyala province with the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Arctic Wolves.
For the past year, the Carrasco brothers have lived with their maternal grandparents, Laurie and Rick Thompson, in Lebanon, Ind.
"My parents have always been our long-term care providers," Melanie said. "I have the two most special parents in the world. They're happy to be grandparents."
The role changed for the year.
"You don't get to be a grandparent," said Laurie Thompson. "You can't just fill them with sugar and send them home."
She said she and her husband were not apprehensive before the boys arrived, but should have been," Thompson said.
"Discipline is different," she said. "You have to have the same set of rules for everybody."
"Everybody" includes their 4-year-old twin sons, James and Ricky. The Thompsons became foster parents to the twins shortly after their premature births and adopted them two years ago.
During the yearlong separation, Melanie and Ramiro kept in touch with Joshua and Joseph by e-mail and weekly telephone calls.
"When I called her, it would sound like a crazy house," Ramiro said.
Thompson enjoyed getting to know her grandsons and relished seeing all the boys interacting, especially when they acted like they liked each other, she said.
The Carrascos' family arrangement is not uncommon. In military families where the heads of household are active-duty soldiers, extended family members often are called upon to care for their children.
Some parents entrust their children to close relatives or friends. Others have someone live in their home and take over their household while they are deployed.
Ramiro is a senior mechanic for 2-8 Field Artillery. Melanie is a battalion communications chief.