MODESTO -- A Marine received a surprise homecoming Tuesday afternoon as more than two dozen family members, friends and well-wishers greeted him at Modesto Airport.
This is awesome, said Diego Garibay, 23, after hugging, kissing and shaking hands with loved ones in the airport terminal. His four years with the Marines ended Monday and included tours of duty in Iraq in 2009 and Afghanistan last year.
The loved ones included Garibay's wife, Victoria, and children, 2-year-old Enzo and 3-year-old Abriella.
"We are so proud of him and we're glad he's back," Victoria Garibay said before her husband's plane landed. "The kids are excited, and everyone is happy he came home in one piece. We're ready to start our next chapter in life as a family."
The homecoming included representatives from local lawmakers. Rep. Jeff Denham's Modesto office worked with Victoria Garibay's mother to put together the homecoming. Officials with the Modesto Vet Center, the Marine Corps League and the Patriot Guard Riders also were on hand.
Modesto resident Diego Garibay was a lance corporal and radio man. He also was stationed at Twentynine Palms in the Southern California desert and Camp Lejeune, N.C. He flew home from North Carolina.
The celebration Tuesday was expected to continue at the Riverbank home of Diego Garibay's parents, where Diego would eat his favorite dinner: his mother's homemade Mexican food.
"It's got that TLC from home," Victoria Garibay said.
Elvira Garibay said she's overjoyed that her son is home safe and sound. But she expressed wishes for those whose loved ones still are in harm's way.
"Our hearts go out to the families who have men and women serving," she said.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2316.