NEWHALL – Ellen Conley has a special bumper sticker on her desk that reads “Proud Employer of an American Soldier.” It was a gift of sorts from Mike Talbot, one of two California Highway Patrol officers Capt. Conley recently welcomed home after their service in the Middle East. “That sticker has been on my desk for a year now, and I couldn’t be prouder,” said Conley, the station commander. Army National Guard Capt. Talbot returned Saturday from deployment in volatile Tikrit, Iraq, where he was a battle captain and Black Hawk helicopter pilot. Jose Ahumada, a member of the Army Reserves, returned two weeks ago from 13 months in Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa where he kept track of units deployed in the Middle East theater. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week “It’s really cool to have them back,” Conley said. “When they first left, it was hard, like losing a member of your family. We kept in touch via e-mail and it was good we were really busy here, because time seemed to fly. I hope it went by fast for them.” Jody Talbot is a little apprehensive about her living arrangements, having been a single mom to Aaron, 11, Brianna, 8, and Ryan, 1, for the last year while Mike was in Iraq. Now that he’s home, she’s going to have to adjust to having some willing help around the house. “I’m very excited, but it’s going to be interesting, commingling our lives again,” she said. Jody gave birth to Ryan two weeks before Talbot was deployed to Iraq. Through the use of video, Web cams and the Internet, she was able to share with her husband, thousands of miles away, Ryan’s first milestones – rolling over, sitting up and taking tentative steps. Mike made a teddy bear before he left, playing his voice saying, “Hi, Ryan, Daddy misses you” to give his son a sense of continuity. “We looked forward to putting together care packages; we sent one about every other week,” Jody said. “The kids would draw pictures and cards and we would go to the store and buy cans of junk food and candy and all the fun stuff. “Mike didn’t like the smell of the detergent used by the military, so he had two sets of sheets. He would send home his dirty sheets and I would wash them, so he’d always have nice sheets from home.” Ahumada came back to work with little fanfare, eager to get back on the streets at home. As a personnel specialist, he spent the last year traveling throughout the Middle East, making sure that deployed units had backup and that troops flowed smoothly through the system. “This was my second deployment in the reserves,” he said. “The other time was in the first Gulf War, which was more defined. This war is unconventional. It’s a lot harder to tell who the enemy is. People that you think are your friends during the day change at night and want to hurt you.” Last September, he left behind his wife, Lidia, and year-old son, David. Like Talbot, Ahumada was able to take advantage of e-mail to keep in touch with home and watch his son grow. Ahumada started out on active duty in the Army 15 years ago, choosing to stay in the active reserves after his initial four-year tour. He recently re-enlisted, referring to his tour as “indefinite.” “I do it for the camaraderie of the people I serve with,” he said. “It’s a sense of duty that’s kind of hard to explain.” Talbot echoed Ahumada’s sentiments, citing a strong sense of commitment. “I am honored to have done this,” he said. “I feel like I did a good job over there. You take so much for granted, but people need to realize that a lot of people have sacrificed to give us what we have in this country. There are a lot of people (Iraqis) who have been fighting us, but a lot more of them have been thanking us and shaking our hands.” Both officers missed their highway duties and are eager to hit the road wearing a different kind of uniform. “I actually missed them,” Talbot said of his fellow officers. “I can’t wait to get back to work. This will sound strange, but it will feel like a vacation after working 12 to 16 hour days.” Carol Rock, (661) 257-5252 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!