COVINGTON - The Gould family received a late Christmas present Saturday - Seth Gould returned to his Covington home after being in Iraq since March.
"He was supposed to be over there for 15 months, so it's a nice little Christmas surprise," said older sister Amanda Gould. "It's a blessing to know he made it home."
First Lt. Infantry Seth Gould, 24, a 2001 graduate of Newton High School and 2005 graduate of Furman University, left his stationed-home of Fort Hood, Texas, in March to join a 15-month tour that had already begun.
He said it was the first time he's been away from his family during the holidays.
"I (was) able to spend Christmas with some family in Austin and New Year's day with my family in Covington," he said.
He made it back to the United States on Dec. 19 to return his gear, find
housing in Texas and attend reintegration training.
He wasn't able to come back to his hometown until Saturday, when his family was finally able to celebrate Christmas and the New Year with him.
"We had some Christmas gifts, but we've mostly been doing some visiting," Amanda said.
During their time together, they also went to a firing range and played some pool - some of their favorite family activities.
"We also did some work on the car," Seth said.
"And Saturday night, we watched some football and went out to eat," Amanda said.
Their dad, Adam Gould, said he usually gets to see his four children over the summer and during Christmas.
"Christmas is always the time when everybody gets together," Adam said.
He said the past several months have been difficult without seeing - or sometimes talking to - Seth.
"Sometimes, when you don't hear from him for a couple of weeks, you watch the news and become more aware of what's going on, more aware than people not in the same situation," he said. "But you have to keep the faith and hope everything is OK. I'm glad he's back - it eases the tension and I can finally rest at night."
Seth, who will return to Texas this week, said he isn't sure what his future holds.
"I'll be in Fort Hood for a while," he said, adding that returning to Iraq is always a possibility in about a year. "I have another year and a half commitment, but I'm not sure what will happen after that."
Michelle Floyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.