Sally Brown-Bliss' son, Larry, left for Iraq with the U.S. Marine Corps on her birthday in January.
The 1996 Carson High School graduate returned safely three weeks ago to Camp Pendleton in San Diego.
"I have my life back," said his mom. "They say the hardest job in the Marine Corps is being the mother of a Marine, and they are so right."
Larry Brown joined the Marines on Nov. 15, 1999. He'll finish his four-year commitment Nov. 18.
"How cool is that?" said his mom, who runs a day-care center on Fifth Street. She was surprised by his deployment so close to his "out date," but now that he's back in the states she hopes he stays put.
"He's supposed to get out in (three) weeks; they better not friggin' send him anywhere!"
Brown served as a diesel mechanic on heavy machinery with the 9th Communications Division in Iraq. Mom said when people hear that, they figure he saw little action.
"He saw a lot more of the front-line involvement than I ever thought he would," she said. "He wasn't in the infantry, but he was right behind them. Anyway, I believe every one of those kids was in danger -- no matter what their (job) was."
Brown, who was born at Carson-Tahoe Hospital, was deployed in Iraq for seven and a half months, she said. "A very long seven and a half months."
Brown's father, Skip Brown, served in the U.S. Navy and his grandfather, Larry Oliver, served in the Marines.
Brown competed in the high school rodeo as a bareback rider.
"His dad and I followed him all through the high school rodeo circuit for three and half years," said his mom.
His father died suddenly in April.
"I had to call Larry and tell him that his dad had died," she said. "It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life."
Larry wore his dress uniform at a military funeral for his father featuring a 10-gun salute.
"He's had a pretty tough last year and a half," she said. "It's definitely made him much more of a man. We didn't always get along but he's definitely redeemed himself in my eyes. He's definitely my hero."
After he gets out of the Corps, Larry is thinking about moving to Idaho for its great outdoor opportunities.
His mother and stepfather, Dean Bliss, are glad he's back from Iraq.
"I wish all of the kids were back home with their families," she said.