When U.S. Army soldier Jim Silveira, 27, returned to his Mound House home late Thursday night, one of the first things he saw were yellow ribbons tied around the porch.
His mother, Barbara Silveira, wanted him to know that he's loved and appreciated for his two years of service in Iraq.
Even though Silveira hasn't thought about it too much, he knows someday he'll open a history book and know the role he played, the mortars he ducked during two tours of duty in Iraq.
"Right now I don't really know how much a part of history that I am," Silveira said. "Ten years down the road I'm sure I'll read about it in a history book and think about it."
But his 30-day leave is shadowed with the possibility that he could be sent to a third tour in the reborn democratic nation. Silveira is looking forward to returning to Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, finding a girlfriend and having a family. He recently purchased a motorcycle, and is ready to hit the road.
He spoke using military jargon, and even sat at attention on a sofa in the family's living room. Silveira's 5-year-old sister, Sammi Lewis, gazed up at him adoringly with her big blue eyes and wrapped her arm over his neck. One tooth sticks out between her smiling lips. "Dora the Explorer" plays in the background.
Silveira, a former Carson High School student, who cracked jokes about how he was too undisciplined to finish school, received his GED and enlisted in the Army in December 1999.
He's a sergeant and was trained as a cook, but in Iraq he was a driver and a gunner. He sat behind a 50-caliber machine gun.
As part of the 4th Infantry Division, Silveira spent his first seven months in Iraq living out of GP Medium - a tent - and eating MREs, or meals ready to eat. His favorite was the beef stew - but even that got old.
"During my second tour I had to do a lot of convoys and patrolling," Silveira said. "It definitely has gotten a lot better since when we first got there. The adults were apprehensive, of course. The little kids loved us. We'd give them food and candy. But now the adults have realized that we're there to stay and we're not going to just leave them."
His second tour was in the 114th Infantry Battalion with the 25th Infantry Division. He worked all over Iraq, the big names stick out: Mosul, Samarra and Kerkuk. During the historic Iraqi election he was in Mosul and helped get supplies ready for the Jan. 30 election.
"The election was a little bit nerve-wracking because we were constantly working to make sure it was going to work out without a hitch," Silveira said.
Mostly, it did, spurring hopeful discourse on the future of a democratic Iraq. Silveira said the insurgency is a complicated issue, but often those who hurt the soldiers, and their own people, are doing it because they're poor and don't have a whole lot of options.
"When sitting here in America you don't realize the Third World poverty in other places," he said. "It definitely opened my eyes to their poverty, but also how much our country is helping them."
In the back of the room is a large banner that reads: "Welcome Home Jim." Beneath the cutout letters is a portrait Sammi drew of her brother with a pink marker.
"My combat boots are pink," Silveira said, looking at her artwork. "Thankfully that's not true."
n Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at email@example.com or 881-1212.