Pennsylvania Army National Guard Sergeant Shannon Walkup, 28, a 2000 Tamaqua graduate and Tamaqua native, was greeted first by tears and tight hugs from her son Nicholas Dietrich, 4, and daughter Kadence Dietrich, 6, in addition to friends and family as she arrived down the pedestrian tunnel of the Lehigh Valley International Airport Tuesday after serving six months in Afghanistan.

Sgt. Walkup and other members of her unit were given two weeks of leave from their tour in Afghanistan to visit their loved ones back home.

Walkup, who joined the United States Army after graduating high school, enlisted in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard following her four years of active duty ending in July 2004. She is also a 2001

graduate of AIT as a 96D Imagery Analyst. Walkup was also stationed in Germany from 2001 to 2003 and then to Iraq in 2003 with the 1st Armored Division.

Currently Walkup is deployed with the 131st Transportation Company as a convoy truck commander in Afghanistan. Walkup, who previously worked with the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, was called away from her full-time job with PPL to serve a year in Afghanistan.

Walkup stated the reason she joined the military was to be part of a time honored service that is dedicated to protecting the nation in addition to her love of being part of it. Recalling a funny moment in Afghanistan, Walkup mentioned that they had to paint chock blocks and drip pans for their vehicle with red paint to ensure we could identify them and no one else could take them. While painting the vehicles, several soldiers from her unit sang "Painting the Roses Red" from "Alice in Wonderland."

Sgt. Walkup also gave special thanks to the Tamaqua St. Jerome's kindergarten class for sending Valentine's Day cards to her unit. She also thanked the Ladies auxiliary from Carlisle for care packages they sent over.

"The culture in Afghanistan is very different from the United States, but is significantly family oriented," stated Walkup while explaining the most notable difference between our cultures. Sgt. Walkup says she plans on enjoying the short time she has with her children, friends and family before returning back to Afghanistan in two weeks to serve another six months.