Company welcomes Iraq vet back |

Company welcomes Iraq vet back

Post Independent Photo/Kara K. Pearson W/ RG STORY A figurine of a soldier and the American flag stand before Sgt. first class Robbie Barela as he looks through a scrap book from his time in Iraq while at his homecoming party at Holy Cross Energy Thursday. Barela came home March 12 after fighting with the U.S. Army in Iraq.

Sgt. 1st Class Robbie Barela prefers to be used, or at least useful.Barela is an Army veteran of the Iraq war, having returned home recently from a long trip to the Middle East.His Colorado National Guard unit was called up 15 months ago, after months of waiting for the inevitable call to war.

“I didn’t volunteer to be in the military not to be used,” he said Thursday. Barela, an Aspen resident and 17-year Army veteran, spoke as he stood behind a table at Holy Cross Energy, his Glenwood Springs employer, which threw him a welcome-home party Thursday. Streams of co-workers he hadn’t seen for 15 months stood in line to welcome him home.

“Hey bud. Thanks,” some said, patting Barela on the back. “Glad you’re back.”Barela served in the first Persian Gulf war as an Army infantryman trained in combat arms. The second time around, after 11 years of monthly training, he went back to Iraq with the 143rd Signal Company, providing communications to the infantry and protection to busloads of American soldiers leaving Iraq. Everything was “totally different” the second time around, he said – not the least of which was leaving his wife, Jennifer, 4-year-old son, Joshua, and 11-year-old daughter, Sara.

“It’s so hard to be a father when you’re 7,000 or 10,000 miles away,” he said. On Thursday, three weeks after his homecoming, life is back to normal, Jennifer said. Barela is almost through his “retraining at home,” he joked. On March 18, he’ll go back to his job as a line journeyman at Holy Cross, a change he said his wife is looking forward to.

“It’s great to be able to bug somebody else other than my wife,” he joked to the crowd. Contact Ryan Graff: 945-8515, ext.

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