Army Spc. Jon Martin didn't spend too much time dreaming about the mountains around Juneau while surrounded by the deserts of Iraq.
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"I tried to stay focused on what I was doing," said the 20-year-old lifelong Juneau resident. "There are places and times to think about what you're going to do. With what I did, if you're constantly daydreaming about going home it's going to screw you up. So you just keep it in the back of your mind and drive on with your mission."
Martin arrived home Thursday for 12 days of leave after serving a one-year tour in Iraq. Family and friends welcomed him at the airport with balloons and a banner taped on a wall that made the war-hardened soldier blush.
A baby photo of Martin being potty-trained was on the banner next to a picture of him in uniform that read "after basic training." Martin was quick to take down the banner after a few laughs.
"I'm ecstatic," his mother, Deborah Brown, said. "I'm elated that he's, you know, in one piece."
Martin's sister, Heather Griffin, said she couldn't wait to see her brother, whom she calls her best friend.
"I'm really proud of him and I'm just glad he came home safe," she said.
Ryan Griffin said there is not a day that goes by that he doesn't think about his older brother and what he is doing in Iraq.
"He just goes out there and does what he does, not only for himself, for his family and his country, but for a career and what he loves to do," he said.
Martin enlisted in the Army in 2004 and now serves with the 2nd Brigade of the storied 101st Airborne Division, based at Fort Campbell, Ky. He is tight-lipped about where he was stationed in Iraq and any specifics of his time in the war zone because of security reasons.
"I'm a fire support specialist," he said. "So we monitor indirect fire assets and other than that, I can't say anything more."
Brown said she is excited to see her son and be able to talk to him in person after a year corresponding across the globe. Talking with him on the phone was stressful at times, when loud noises could be heard in the background, she said.
"I would go, 'Oh what what's that?' And he goes, 'Oh, incoming. That's a mortar,'" Brown said. "When you hear that - I'm happy that he's home."
Having her son in harm's way is "really nerve-wracking," she said.
Martin has enjoyed the camaraderie and the work in the Army so much that he re-enlisted, he said.
"You do things you might not like, but you know what, you get better things in the end," he said. "That's how I look at it."
With another tour of duty in Iraq on the horizon, Brown said she is nervous at having her son so far away again.
"I don't know how I'm going to cope with the second tour as well as the first," she said.
Martin said he has no real plans of what he wants to do while on leave in Juneau, except spend time with family and friends.
"Other than that I don't care about going anywhere or anything," he said. "Whatever we do, as long as it's oriented with people I know, there you go."
Martin said it angers him that people don't support the work that he and his fellow soldiers do in Iraq to protect America and its citizens.
"Just keep supporting all the troops," he said. "It just helps with the morale."