East Texas Soldier Comes Home From Iraq - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

04/27/04 - Longview

East Texas Soldier Comes Home From Iraq

A soldier back home from war. 21 year old Robert Bradford of Longview has been fighting in Iraq for the past year. He's serving in the 4th infantry division as an engineer.

Robert's family and friends haven't seen him since he first joined the army three years ago, but that all changed Tuesday night.

Robert's mother, brother and friend waited at the Gregg County airport with a limo for Steven to step off an airplane.

While they waited for him, they remembered the boy they last saw three years ago."Robert is hilarious. Robert is hilarious. Robert is one of those people if you're having a horrible day, you call him," says family friend Chezeney Spears.

His brother, Steven, remembers the day Robert first told him he was joining the army, "He just came home one day and said, 'I joined the army and I'm leaving in June.' He was 18 and I was 16".

They say it's evident talking to him over the last year that Robert has become a man.

"He would always manage to call at two a.m.," says his mom. "Sometimes he was laughing and sometimes you could tell he just wanted to get out of there."

"God protected him 'cause he's back," says brother Steven.

When Robert left, his daughter was only a baby. He hasn't seen her for the past three years.

Then the anticipation of Tuesday was finally over. Robert's plane landed at the Gregg County airport just after 8 p.m. After hugs, tears and kisses, Robert talked about finally seeing his family, "I'm glad I'm finally home and see my family who I haven't seen in so long. They're beautiful."

Robert wasn't ready to talk about his time in Iraq. He says he's concentrating on catching up with his family and getting a good home-cooked meal.

Robert's entire family including his three year old daughter are planning a big celebration for him Wednesday in Longview. He will be home for a couple of weeks before he heads back to his base at Ft. Lewis in Washington state.

Amy Tatum reporting. atatum@kltv.com

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