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SWTJC student back in class after serving in Iraq
When Tony Talamantez walked onto the Southwest Texas Junior College campus for the first time this fall, he arrived with many more life experiences than most entering freshmen.
This time last year, Talamantez had just returned from Baghdad, Iraq.
Following the tradition of many graduating seniors wanting to get away from home, Talamantez signed up for four years of service with the Marines after graduating in May 2000 from Uvalde High School.
Talamantez completed boot camp in San Diego and then spent about three months training to be a field radio operator. He was then stationed for 3 1/2 years at Camp Horno in California.
In the summer of June 2002, Talamantez was deployed for the first time making a tour by ship from Hawaii to Singapore and back. Spending time in various ports, Talamantez's and his outfit spent the most time in Africa, where they trained for about three months in terrain and weather conditions similar to the Middle East.
After returning from the six-month tour on ship, Talamantez was looking forward to spending some time with his family for the holidays.
Little did he know that after his two-week visit with loved ones, he would be back on ship, this time headed for Baghdad.
After sailing to the Persian Gulf, Talamantez ended up in Kuwait, where he stayed for about one month.
After the month's preparation in Kuwait, it was time for Talamantez and his group to make their way to Baghdad.
According to Talamantez, along with 20-25 other Marines, he drove almost non-stop to Baghdad in a small tank.
"We drove day and night. We might stop after two or three hours for 10 minutes or so. But that was it," Talamantez said. "It was very hot and uncomfortable inside the tank."
According to Talamantez, the trip took almost two weeks.
Talamantez and his outfit were among the first American troops to arrive in Baghdad. Talamantez remembers the civilians being positive about the arrival of U.S. troops.
"They were happy that we were there to set them free," Talamantez said. "We patrolled Baghdad for about two months. Our job was to collect and destroy weapons and to get information from civilians about who the 'bad guys' were."
After two months of patrolling and questioning civilians, Talamantez and his group headed back to Kuwait for a month and before returning to San Diego.
Talamantez was able to come home to Uvalde for two weeks after getting back from Iraq, before returning to San Diego for his final six months of service.
Upon finishing his time with the Marines, Talamantez decided to come home to Uvalde.
Ironically, the place he wanted so badly to get away from when he left for the Marines is the place he has returned to after completing his service.
"I wanted to come home to be close to my family," said Talamantez. "I appreciate them a lot more now."
Talamantez is majoring in business and aspires to open his own business in Uvalde.