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Ft. Totten reserves come home from Iraq

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More than a year after she left for Iraq, Capt. Lourdes Garcia of the U.S. Army Reserve got to do Sunday what any daughter confronted with a doting, video-camera-equipped mom often wants to do. Garcia, 30, got to bashfully shoo her mother away.

“It’s been a year since she left us,” said Garcia’s mother, Maria, wielding a video camera to record the coming-home ceremony for the 140th Quartermaster Company, part of the U.S. Army Reserve’s 77th Regional Readiness Command headquartered at Fort Totten in Bayside.

Garcia, a Jackson Heights resident and the commanding officer of the 140th Quartermaster Company, was among the more than 70 soldiers — 18 from Queens — who returned safe and sound to Fort Totten on Sunday.

The 140th QM Company was activated in February 2003 for a month of further training at Fort Dix in New Jersey and a year on the ground in Iraq.

“It’s great,” Garcia said of being back. Now, she said, she’s going to enjoy the well-deserved three-month vacation returning reservists get.

“I’m going to a spa ... manicure, pedicure, get pampered,” Garcia said. But, she added, it will have to be “somewhere that doesn’t have sand.”

Hong Kong-born Sgt. Chi Tse echoed the vacation sentiment. The 25-year-old resident of Richmond Hill said he would return to work as a computer analyst with Accenture in Manhattan after “about 90 days’ vacation.”

The 140th QM, which provided laundry, clothing and bathing service to advancing troops, made its way through some of the most active theaters in the Iraq war, including Tikrit, Balad, Mosul and Mandali.

Maj. Gen. Richard Colt, commanding officer of the 77th Regional Readiness Command, said the 140th Quartermaster Company numbers more than 100 soldiers, and despite some fierce conditions all of them came home unscathed, although some are still elsewhere in the United States preparing to stand down.

The same day of the coming-home ceremony, nine American soldiers were killed and 24 were wounded during an intense day of battles in Iraq, according to news reports.

“It was something that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy,” Jamaica resident Sgt. Aaron Murphy said of his time in Iraq. A veteran of the first Gulf War, it was his second time in the Middle East.

“It was a lot different,” Murphy said. “The hostilities in ’91 weren’t as bad as this time.”

Murphy, 33, left behind a wife and a 15-year-old son when he was deployed. But Murphy said his son, who was away for school during the ceremony, handled his absence well. “He got some of my stuff while I was gone,” Murphy said laughing.

U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans) welcomed the company home and thanked them for their sacrifice and service.

“Job well done,” Meeks said. “Our troops couldn’t survive without the kind of support the 140th provided.”

Rap star Parish Smith of the group EPMD also addressed the company.

“Hip-hop is here with you,” he told the assembled crowd.

Garcia’s words, however, were music to the crowd’s ears.

“I’ll keep it short and sweet,” Garcia said. “Like true New Yorkers we survived and came through all in one piece ... stay safe, and peace.”

Reach reporter James DeWeese by e-mail news@timesledger.com, or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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