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Soldier returns home to warm welcome in Elgin

Sgt. David D. AguinIV autographs sleeve well-wisher during surprise welcome-home event Saturday Elgin. | Romi Herr~ For The Courier-News

Sgt. David D. Aguina IV autographs the sleeve of a well-wisher during a surprise welcome-home event on Saturday in Elgin. | Romi Herron ~ For The Courier-News

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Updated: October 25, 2012 6:09AM

ELGIN — After three tours of duty, Elgin resident Sgt. David D. Aguina IV returned home to Elgin Saturday.

A graduate of Lake Zurich High School and Western Illinois University, Aguina greeted more than 100 guests at the Grand Victoria Casino, where welcomers included family, community members and the Warrior’s Watch Riders.

“The only injury I had was when I kind of fell and dislocated my shoulder descending a mountain in Afghanistan,” said Aguina, smiling continuously as he shook hands and posed for photos with his mother, Iris Hernandez by his side. “But I didn’t have any combat injuries.”

Tim Norman of West Chicago arrived at the event wearing his own military jacket, which he asked Aguina to autograph. A U.S. Air Force Vietnam veteran, Norman said he wanted a chance to connect with another soldier and thank him for his service.

Aguina returned to the U.S. on Sept. 11 after being stationed in Afghanistan. Next, he’ll head to Fort Bragg, N.C.

Warrior’s Watch Riders, a group of volunteers who escort soldiers home once they arrive in their local area, organized the presentation at Grand Victoria Casino. Cary Levin, ride coordinator for Aguina’s event, said the group escorts about 40 soldiers per year. Usually, the escorts arrive in a caravan of motorcycles, cars and emergency vehicles, as they did for Aguina.

Aguina’s grandfather, David Aguina III, and his grandmother, Andrea Aguina, were among several family members at the casino when the caravan pulled up. Dozens of American flags waved from their posts on the motorcycles and cars, and guests shouted, “Welcome Home!” as Aguina and his mother arrived in her car.

“He pretty much grew up with us, he spent so much time at our place,” said David Aguina III. “His great grandfather, David Aguina Sr. was a Marine in WWII; and since David (the fourth) was little, he was always interested in the military.”

Whether playing with toy soldiers or reading books about the military, his goals seemed apparent to both his grandfather and his aunt, Daneen Aguina of Burbank.

Over the years, Daneen was concerned about his safety in a military career. It was the events of 9/11 that inspired him to enlist, and he left on his first tour one year and one day after 9/11, she said, adding the Internet enabled them to stay in touch.

“We communicated online, and I let him know his great-grandfather died last March, when he was in Russia,” she said. And for David’s birthday, she and David’s father sent their birthday wishes via the online program Skype.

“A lot of times we just wished he could have gone for shorter periods of time,” she said. “With everything that’s going on (in combat), we worried. But as you can see, he is doing fine.”

Sgt. Aguina said his sister Diana Aguina spent time in the U.S. Army, and he understands the apprehension some family members feel when a loved one goes into service.

“For people worried about their safety, the military is a very safe profession,” he said. “There are a lot of procedures and policies in place that keep us safe.”

Warrior’s Watch presented him with a banner to sign, and he posed for photos and talked with well-wishers before joining some of the group for lunch.

To the crowd who applauded him for his service, he said, “You all really made this homecoming very special, and I deeply appreciate it. I look forward to sharing some of my experiences with my family, and then I’ll go back to doing what I do.”

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