Soldiers become friends overseas - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Soldiers become friends overseas

Specialist Monica Lashley (left) and friend and comrade Specialist Theresa Araujo Specialist Monica Lashley (left) and friend and comrade Specialist Theresa Araujo

July 22, 2004

Ft. Benning - Fifteen months is a long time to spend in the hot desert, especially when you live in tight quarters, sometimes with more than a dozen roommates. It's amazing many soldiers come back as friends.

The two soldiers we kept in touch with during their time away are found getting to know their families.

With one simple plane ride, Specialist Monica Lashley says, "I'm back in the United States!"

The 1148th Transportation Company soldiers went from sand to grass. Lashley laughs, "As soon as I got off the plane I kissed the ground, I told everybody I was going to do it and I did it."

And that's just what Specialist Monica Lashley did, so quick that Specialist Theresa Araujo almost trips over her. Strangers to each other and strangers to me when they left 15 months ago, now they're just like family. Araujo smiles, "Lashley and her family, yeah, we all kind of became family over there in the desert."

Meanwhile, both soldiers are anxious to find their own. Lashley's cell phone rings, it's her sister, she says, "Where are you girl?"

Lashley's sister, Jennifer, is somewhere at Ft. Benning. Jennifer says, "I think I'm more nervous than she is."

It's been a year and three months since Jennifer and her daughter, Kodie, has seen Lashley. Jennifer adds, "I'm not sure she'll remember her, but I've said her name and showed her pictures so maybe she will."

It's something you can't plan. When the sisters finally find each other, Kodie doesn't recognize her aunt. Lashley gets choked up, "She didn't know me, it broke my heart."

But it did pull at the heartstrings when both south Georgia families I've been covering came together at the homecoming to introduce each other.

They went over as comrades, but came back as friends. Araujo says, "Yes, we are going to keep in contact with each other."

Lashley lives in Dougherty County and Araujo lives nearby in Worth County.

As far as Lashley's niece, she started warming up to her Aunt. It will just take time and patience.

Lashley told us that she and Araujo are now thinking about going to work for the Albany Police Department.

posted at 5:17PM by kathryn.simmons@walb.com