Kayelyn Butler was scrunched in a box in the back of her brother's truck while she waited to surprise her family.
The 24-year-old Army supply specialist came home from Iraq for two weeks of leave as an anniversary present to her parents.
"I saw the box wiggling and I thought, 'Oh, they got us a dog,'" Kayelyn's mother, Linda Butler, said.
When she and her husband, Earl, opened the box, however, they realized it was their daughter who they had not seen since November.
"I made Mom cry, and she nearly suffocated me trying to hug me," Kayelyn said.
She spent the weekend with her brothers, Carl, 19, and Robert, 23, in Sheridan, Wyo., before returning to Craig. Now she's relaxing with her parents and sister, Melody, 15, at their home on Moffat County Road 64.
"You don't have to worry about sirens going off around here," she said. "Time's going by really fast, because you know you have to go back."
She graduated from Moffat County High School in 1999 after several years in Hayden and New Mexico before that.
"It's kind of weird, because a lot of my friends are married and have kids, and I'm off in another country," she said.
The only part of life in Iraq she misses are the sunrises and sunsets.
"The reddest skies you would ever see," she said.
She's not looking forward to returning to a country where ants are the size of her thumb and camel spiders are bigger than her hand.
"I have to go back and put on a uniform and be hot all day long," she said. "I'm not sure how I feel about going back."
She certainly keeps entertained in her off time there, though. The on-site recreation center features billiards, air hockey and ping pong, as well as a library, computer lab, gym and movie theater.
Plus, she's made plenty of time for her faith.
"This deployment has gotten me closer (to God) because I pray more, I read scriptures more," Kayelyn said.
And she loves getting mail from the states. One of her favorite packages was cards from elementary school students.
"That's one of the things I like, getting homemade stuff," she said. "When people actually take the time to send stuff, you know people are supporting you and rooting for you.
"It'd be hard for me to do this job if I didn't have support, especially because you don't know what's going to happen tomorrow."
Kayelyn joined the Army in January 2003 when she was dissatisfied with working two jobs and going to community college. Now she seems ready for her enlistment to be finished.
"I just need a break from military life," she said. "It's not just a job, it's a completely different lifestyle. You don't get to see your family. Somebody else is raising your kids."
But for now, she has to focus on her job overseas.
She recalled positive and negative Iraqi reactions to the American military. One incident was while she worked as a tower guard. A man and three children passed by, speaking in their native tongue, then they yelled two words Kayelyn recognized.
"They know 'candy' and 'food' in English, but that's it," she said.
She also can still hear the soundtrack of her base in Iraq.
"Mortars do hit there. It's an everyday thing," she said.
"But you can't get complacent. You can't get comfortable."
For now, though, her parents hope she can be comfortable during her time in Craig.
"Our family's extremely close, so it's good to have her home," Earl said. "I hope she can come home for good before long."
That's what Kayelyn wants too, but she still has worries in the back of her mind.
"If I come back with one arm and one leg, you guys better still love me," she said.
Michelle Perry can be reached at 824-7031 or email@example.com.