A sea of American flags greeted Sandra Valois, 26, of Cambria as she arrived Thursday at San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport from a tour of duty in Iraq.
Happy to be back on the Central Coast and eager to ride home on the back of her dad’s motorcycle, Valois hugged friends and family whom she hadn’t seen since leaving for Baghdad seven months ago.
“I didn’t expect such a big reception, but knowing the Cambrian community, I guess I should have expected it,” Valois said.
Valois was a terrorism intelligence analyst in Iraq and was there during the parliamentary elections, which she noted had a higher turnout than elections typically do in the United States. “I’m very impressed with the evolution of their system in the last year,” Valois said, adding that she is hopeful for Iraqis. “Iraq is on the right track.”
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Valois has been in the military for 31⁄2 years and is a senior airman in the U.S. Air Force. She plans to renew her contract with the military and go on another tour, most likely to Afghanistan, she said.
The hardest part of being in Iraq was not being able to walk on the streets and feel safe, she said.
Now that she is back, Valois plans on relaxing, catching up with her family and friends and enjoying American air.
“It’s so dusty over there,” she said.