Army major's homecoming culminates with new house

OLYMPIA - Maj. Roger Alvarez finally has a home of his own.

Alvarez, 42, joined the Army 17 years ago, during the first Gulf War. He has lived all over the country, never staying long in one place.

"It feels good. I haven't settled down in a few years. It's been, like, pick up and go," he said while maneuvering dressers and appliances through doorways Saturday.

He returned a week ago with 120 soldiers from the 593rd Sustainment Brigade after yearlong deployment in Iraq, his second since the Iraq War began. He and his fellow soldiers have spent the week readjusting to life away from war.

Kathleen Alvarez looked for a home that her husband would enjoy fixing up. She found just the right one on an acre and a half near Millersylvania State Park.

"I thought, wow, that's perfect for him. He can work, he can acclimate," she said.

Saturday, a team of volunteers helped Alvarez move from the couple's Nisqually apartment to their new home. The couple know few people in the area, but their real-estate agent, Margo Street, was quick to recruit volunteers.

"That's the best housewarming gift you can have: help them move," said Street, owner of Realty Executives.

With bookshelves, dressers and boxes still dispersed throughout the house, Alvarez already was plotting.

He laid a blueprint of his house and lot on a coffee table: this tree would come out; he'd have to learn how to care for the apple trees at one end of the property; maybe they'd put in a garden.

"First thing, we'll cut the lawn, of course, see what we got," he said, referring to the overgrown grass and weeds outside.

He has plans for inside, too.

"This whole thing needs to go," he said, pointing to staples in the wallpaper.

The couple joked and hugged, talking about what they might do with the property.

They met about four years ago in Lynnwood, while Alvarez was stationed at Fort Lawton. He is stationed at Fort Lewis for the next few years, though he could be deployed to Iraq for a third time.

During his most recent tour of duty, he was a service and supply officer and oversaw feeding and equipping troops in the western third of Iraq.

Roger Alvarez said the time-zone change has been the toughest adjustment; his wife added that it has been a tough transition for him to wind down after being alert at all times in Iraq.

"They're working 24-7, go go go. It's very aggressive. They have to learn to acclimate. Soldiers are coming back; they are wound up," she said. "A lot of people don't realize how hard they work. ... They've lost buddies over there. They've fought hard."

Now the Alvarezes look forward to being in the same place again and "bringing everything together, making it a home."

Diane Huber writes for The Olympian. She can be reached at 360-357-0204 or dhuber@theolympian.com.