A homecoming for a ‘SHE-ro’

Crowds gathered at Medford Township Ott's to welcome home Regina Iezzi, just in time for the holiday season.

Some call her Regina, some Reggie, others Gina, but on Nov. 30, everyone called her a “hero.”

SrA of the Air Force Reserve Regina Iezzi received a warm welcome home at the Medford Township Ott’s — a place of special significance for Iezzi — following a deployment to Afghanistan, which started in the summer.

Operation Yellow Ribbon President Dave Silver admitted all homecomings are special for the organization to carry out, and to have Iezzi’s at Ott’s made it more special because she is a server there and helped host many fundraisers with her coworkers for the nonprofit OYR.

When we heard she was heading to Afghanistan, we put her on the care package list and then were in cahoots with Ott’s and her family to welcome her home,” Silver said.

A flustered Iezzi was surprised on Nov. 30 as she exited a car to seeing people wave flags, applaud and cheer for her. Being a quiet person, Iezzi smiled throughout the welcoming ceremony as she was handed certificates and tokens of appreciation from the Medford Township VFW Post 7677, Burlington County Board of Chosen Freeholders and more.

Silver dubbed her as being a people’s “she-ro” throughout the ceremony, commending her for her bravery to enlist and serve in a deployment.

It’s nice to see and I’m a very quiet person, so I was like ‘Ah, I don’t want a big party or surprises,’ but they didn’t listen to me,” she joked.

Iezzi said she followed in the footsteps of her three brothers, father and grandfather to enlist in the military for the Army, later paving her own path by switching to the Air Force Reserves.

After hearing them talk, I thought those were kind of my only options,” Iezzi said. “So when I did more research, I figured out that there were more opportunities for me and what I want to do in my career with the Air Force than there were in the Army. So I decided to go Air Force.”

The 2015 Seneca High School graduate said when her graduation approached, she did not know what to do, and landed herself in the armed forces. In the Air Force Reserves, she’s an administrator, but at home in Southampton, she attends Rowan University for pre-medicine.

I don’t know exactly what I want to do, but I’m still pursuing my education. I have a year left,” she added. “It’s been bumpy with having to leave so much with the military, (but) it’s been worth it.

While in Afghanistan, she said she was able to create bonds with the other soldiers, nearly to the point of calling them her family away from family. The deployment taught the 22-year-old about overcoming challenges and pushing herself to be the best version of herself.

“It was one of the greatest things I’ve done so far in my life,” she proclaimed. “It really changed my perspective on a lot of things. I’m glad I got the opportunity to go because now I’m like ‘When’s the next trip?’” 

As the holiday season is now in full swing, Iezzi, who was home in time for Thanksgiving, thought about her friends who are still deployed and hoped for them to be able to come home for Christmas.

Iezzi said she has to catch up on Christmas shopping as the biggest shopping weekend of the year came and went.

Everything’s happening so fast,” she exclaimed. “I feel like I just got home and Thanksgiving’s already over and now it’s Christmas.

Figuring out what to get her loved ones might have to wait, as Iezzi said the few things she’s excited to do now that she’s home is to cook her own food and take a shower with clean water.

You had to eat whatever they had, and so I’m excited to be able to have variety again,” she said. “I can go to the grocery store and buy whatever I want.