Home for the holidays

JOAN MEAD MATSUI Abington Journal Correspondent

December 24, 2013

Gustavo DeFreitas, 23, a Specialist in the United States Army, Military Occupational Specialty 11B (Infantryman), is excited to be back in the United States and home for the holidays in South Abington Township, where he will spend Christmas with his mother, Rosangela Freitas and stepfather, Charles Charlesworth.

Upon his return from his base at Fort Stewart, Ga., in addition to a hankering for a “real cheeseburger,” DeFreitas, also brought home nine medals: Army Achievement Medal, Combat Infantry Badge, Overseas Ribbon, NATO Ribbon, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Global War on Terrorism, National Defense Service Medal and the Army Service Medal.

DeFreitas joined the Army on Aug. 25, 2011 and left for basic training March 13, 2012.

He came home to the Abingtons, following a year of deployment as part of the 3rd Infantry Division in the Logar Province of eastern Afghanistan, near the southern border of Pakistan, on Sunday, Dec. 15.

He returned to Northeastern Pennsylvania a U.S. citizen.

DeFreitas, who was born in Brazil and immigrated to the United States with his grandmother on Jan. 11, 2002, was naturalized in Atlanta, Ga. in 2012, prior to his deployment.

“One of my team leaders drove me to Atlanta to swear in. I felt very happy and proud that day to be an American citizen,” he said.

“I joined the military because I wanted to serve my country and do my part as a citizen, even though I wasn’t born here. I wanted to be a part of a greater cause. I wanted to go out there and be a part of the fight and face the enemy face-to-face. I think until you face death, you haven’t lived yet. I wanted to face the enemy and be part of a family,” said DeFreitas.

DeFreitas was trained as a Rifleman/Grenadier (M4 Grenade launcher).

“We did a lot of mounted and dismounted patrols on foot and with trucks,” said DeFreitas of his company while stationed in Afghanistan. “(We) got shot at a lot.” and “returned fire a lot,” while disrupting the Taliban’s presence during fire fights.

“We were very fortunate to bring everyone back (alive). We did an outstanding job in Afghanistan.”

They also helped train the Afghanistan National Army by teaching them how to properly fire and clean their weapons, and patrol.

“I feel very happy and have a lot of pride. I feel like I’m a part of helping to fight the war on terrorism. I think I did my part,” said DeFreitas.

While at times temperatures reached 104 to 105 degrees in Afghanistan, prior to leaving, he said, “We did our patrols in the snow. We were patrolling until about a week before we left.”

Care packages were much appreciated, according to DeFreitas, and arrived often courtesy of his mother.

He said he will spend his time home relaxing a bit, going for runs, and has plans to take a mixed martial arts class.

“Maybe Brazilian jiu-jitsu,” he noted.

DeFreitas will return to Fort Stewart Monday, Jan. 13.

“I think we’re the most elite military in the world and we are getting things done out there so people will feel safe. We’re taking care of business. Who knows how long it will take but we’re fighting them, and we will keep fighting them as long it is necessary.”