Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

National Guardsman thankful just to be home

Steve Villa, a full-time National Guardsman, enjoys being home in Hudson with Christian, 6, left, and Nicholas, 5, on Tuesday while on leave from Iraq. Villa last saw his sons during a four-day leave in June. “I think of them as my best friends,” he said.

BRENDAN FITTERER | Times

Steve Villa, a full-time National Guardsman, enjoys being home in Hudson with Christian, 6, left, and Nicholas, 5, on Tuesday while on leave from Iraq. Villa last saw his sons during a four-day leave in June. “I think of them as my best friends,” he said.

HUDSON — When Christian and Nicholas Villa sit down for Thanksgiving dinner today, their biggest blessing will be there at the table with them — their dad.

Cuddles and snuggles, and some good-natured tussles, have filled the home of Steve Villa all week as the sergeant with the Army National Guard has been home from Iraq for a short visit with his sons, Nicholas, 5, and Christian, 6.

Villa is on leave for two weeks, including the Thanksgiving holiday, and for that he's quite grateful. He's a full-time National Guardsman with the 1-244 Helicopter Battalion based at the armory south of Brooksville.

Villa, a serviceman since 1996 who has served in Afghanistan and Yemen, as well as Iraq, last saw his sons on a four-day leave in June. His most recent of four deployments sent him to the Mideast in April.

"I wanted to come home for the (Christmas) holiday, but I wanted to be home for my son's birthday," the 36-year-old divorced father said. Christian will celebrate 7 years on Monday.

At the home of Villa's parents, Linda and Jesus Villa of Port Richey, an extended family will sit down to Thanksgiving dinner.

"It's a combination, like a family reunion, because I'm home, with aunts, uncles and close family friends and the boys," Steve Villa said.

What's on the table, he said, won't be nearly as important as who's around it. What counts to him is "just having a meal, sitting down there with my boys, regardless of what's being served."

During his leave through Dec. 5, Villa's aim is "enjoying time with the boys — spend as much quality time as I can with them. Me and the boys are real, real close. I think of them as my best friends."

When Villa is called to duty, his parents and his former wife, Linda Villa, care for the boys. Villa recently re-enlisted and signed up for his fifth tour in the Mideast.

As much as family is dear to him, he is driven to serve his country.

"I believe in what we're doing," Villa said. "I actually enjoy the job."

He serves as head logistics noncommissioned officer, officer in charge, crew chief and head mechanic when necessary.

His unit is part of a Florida-Louisiana task force stationed 30 miles north of Baghdad. There's a friendly rivalry between the states, augmented for the Floridians by donations of University of Florida flags, banners, T-shirts and pennants by students at Challenger K-8 School of Science and Mathematics in Spring Hill who wanted to boost the Gators. The university also contributed.

And items from Treats for Troops, a group organized by George and Barbara Newlin of Spring Hill, have also come the unit's way.

Cynthia Downey, family readiness coordinator at the Hernando National Guard, has been "awesome" in facilitating even more gifts from home, Villa said.

"This is like, wow. They really do care," he said.

Villa has one simple Thanksgiving wish: "That everyone I left (in Iraq) will complete the mission and come back home safely."

Beth Gray can be contacted at graybethn@earthlink.net.

National Guardsman thankful just to be home 11/26/08 [Last modified: Friday, November 28, 2008 7:20pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Pinellas licensing board needs cash. Will the county give it any?

    Local Government

    LARGO –– The grand jury that said Pinellas County should not take over the troubled construction licensing board also said the county should bail out the agency before it goes broke in 2018.

    Pinellas County Commission chair Janet Long isn't keen on the idea of the county loaning money to keep the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board afloat. The county has no say over the independent agency, which could run out of funding in 2018. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  2. Is the Bundt cake back? How retro baked goods are becoming trendy again

    Cooking

    Once there were grunts and slumps, buckles and brown betties. Oh, and pandowdies and sonkers. In the olden days, people routinely made angel food cakes, tomato soup cakes and hummingbird cakes. These were not Duncan Hines mixes, but rather confections made from scratch following yellowed and stained recipes in your …

    Nothing Bundt Cakes in Tampa offers a variety of options, from tiny “bundtinis” and 10-inch cakes that serve 18 to 20 people. Core flavors include lemon, marble, red velvet and chocolate-chocolate chip, with featured flavors like confetti.
  3. What you need to know for Monday, Sept. 25

    News

    Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.

    Craig Butz, executive director of Pepin Academies and former professional hockey player, died in a crash with a boat Saturday. His daughter Teagan, 4, remained in critical condition Sunday afternoon. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   TIMES, 2013]
  4. Two boys in critical condition after Largo crash

    Accidents

    LARGO — A 7-year-old boy was thrown from a car in a head-on crash on Starkey Road, and both he and a 6-year-old boy were in critical condition Sunday night, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

  5. Trump's new order bars almost all travel from seven countries

    National

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Sunday issued a new order banning almost all travel to the United States from seven countries, including most of the nations covered by his original travel ban, citing threats to national security posed by letting their citizens into the country.

    President Donald Trump speaks to reporters Sunday upon his return to the White House in Washington.