Army Mayor Kevin Rice returns from Afghanistan where he helped train Afghanistan police
Rice presented Nassau County Sheriff's Office patch to replace one he lost in a fire in Afghanistan, meant a lot to Rice.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Army Major Kevin Rice arrived home Wednesday afternoon from a ten-month deployment to Afghanistan and received a replacement of a meaningful patch he carried with him while overseas.
"I am just overwhelmed at the outpouring of love from everybody and I can hardly wait to get my arms around him," said his mother, Sylvia Slebos, as she and 40 other family and friends awaited his arrival.
Rice got a big hug and welcome when he arrived, the first time in over a year he's been home.
"The air smells good , the ground feels good, nobody is shooting at me, you can't beat it," said Rice after greeting the many flag-waving folks on hand to welcome him home.
The 46-year-old Rice spent ten months helping train Afghanistan police.
"It was a great experience helping people trying to help rebuild their country. Making sure they do what is right, helping them do what is right and they want to do what is right. It's been real pleasing to do that in the Army instead of pointing gun at somebody, get to help them build their country back."
Rice had given an Afghan provincial police chief General Zarwar a Nassau County Sheriff's Office patch, given to him by his brother John, a patrol sergeant in Nassau County.
"General Zarwar is a great guy. I just wanted to make him part of the team, make him feel like others were supporting him and we were. He appreciated it."
Rice was disappointed that another patch he had on his desk was burned up in an electrical fire at his headquarters. The Nassau County Sheriff's office presented him a new one at the airport.
"Thank you for your service," said Lt. Hank Martinez as he presented Rice a framed patch with his nameplate below the patch.
"Thank you , thank you very much," Rice replied, and related his story to Martinez about giving a patch to the Afghan police chief he worked with in Afghanistan.
"We all may wear green or blue or a different color uniform, but we are part of the same team, that is taking bad guys down one way or the other," said Rice.
Rice is nearing retirement next year or else he would have volunteered to stay longer in Afghanistan. He says things are getting better over there and morale is good among the American troops.
"It looks like the summer fighting season is going to be pretty intense this year, I think the bad guys are expecting to try and make a point before we leave, but they are losing their point."
Rice will be stationed in Virginia until he retires in September of 2013.
First Coast News