The elder Del Rosario, an Army veteran himself, and his wife, Lorraine, walk their dog Buster through Central Community Park every evening.
“Here we go,” Rey Del Rosario said after his brother Sal, who had picked him up from Oakland airport Sunday afternoon, got a text from their mother saying they were on the way to the park.
Lorraine Del Rosario had helped keep the surprise a secret, along with her son’s two brothers and his sister, who served 9½ years as an Army medic.
“I feel like I’m back at home — just feels good to be home,” the 27-year-old Army specialist said. “A lot of weight has come off my shoulders, because over there you are worried about so much stuff. I get home and I don’t have to worry about a lot.”
He said the one thing he still worries about is the mission back in Afghanistan and his brothers in Combined Joint Interagency Task Force 435. He is part of the Personal Security Detachment, escorting officers and high-value officials through the region.
On Aug. 5, the detachment was escorting Army Maj. Gen. Harold Greene, 55, when he was killed in an attack by a terrorist wearing an Afghan army uniform in Kabul. Several members of Greene’s PSD unit were wounded in the attack, too.
“Once they heard that on the news, they automatically thought it was me. My mom was texting me and kind of freaking out. I had to call her and say, ‘It wasn’t me. I’m good,’” Rey Del Rosario said.
His commanders recommended that his unit take rest and relaxation leave and visit their families.
“I actually wasn’t going to take it, so I could stay and finish the mission down there. Because we are leaving soon, in a couple months. So I figured I would just finish it out,” he said while waiting for his parents to arrive. “I’m kind of glad I did, though. I needed a break from that place. It’s definitely a whole other world down there. It gives you a greater appreciation for life here, I’ll tell you that.”
He spent four days flying from Afghanistan to Kuwait, Qatar, Paris and Los Angeles before arriving in California. As his parents pulled into the park parking lot, he was “nervous and excited at the same time.”
Rey Del Rosario hid behind a palm tree, blending in thanks to his camouflage uniform, and waited until his parents walked past, just a few dozen feet away.
He jogged to catch up with them, then gripped his speechless father in a bear hug.
Reynaldo Del Rosario managed to get out a few words while embracing his son: “Glad you’re home safe.”
Rey Del Rosario, his brother and their parents shared a laugh about the surprise before moving off down the path through Central Community Park to catch up and leave the problems in Afghanistan thousands of miles behind them.
The family will have a party Saturday before Spc. Rey Del Rosario leaves to visit his wife and daughter in El Paso and finally heads back to Afghanistan to finish his mission.
• Contact Michael Ellis Langley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 830-4231.