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Soldier will be home for Christmas

For those serving in uniform during America’s wars, it’s always been a dream to be home for Christmas.

Spec. Steven Bell, of Bradenton, a U.S. Army combat engineer serving in Iraq, is flying home Monday and his proud family couldn’t be happier.

When United flight 729 from Washington arrives at Tampa International Airport at 7:56 p.m., his wife, Lindsey; their 10-month-old baby, Elijah; his mom, Lisa Bapst, of Palmetto; Pat Comkowycz, family coordinator for Manasota Operation Troop Support, and her husband, Jim, will be there with other family members and friends.

And if you would like to be there to welcome a dedicated young American home, you’re welcome, too, says the family.

Steven and Lindsey were sweethearts at Southeast High School.

He enlisted in the Army at 17.

From the time he was a fifth-grader, Steven knew he wanted to serve his country in uniform. After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, his resolve only intensified.

“I am definitely proud of my husband. Honestly after the Sept. 11 attacks, he felt he needed to do something for his country,” Lindsey said.

His mother said, “Oh my gosh. I might even be more excited that he’s going to see his son, Elijah, for the first time since he was 1 week old.”

Lisa continues: “It’s heart-breaking that it’s wartime. But I am so proud of him. He’s wonderful.”

After a few weeks leave in the United States, Steven will return to join his unit in Germany, and then he’ll travel with his wife and child to Fort Carson, Colo., for the next year.

With the certainty of frequent deployments during an era of two wars, the family is happy that he’ll be safe on American soil for the next year.

Steven’s service seems sure to continue, as he plans to re-enlist.

Pat Comkowycz said Manasota Operation Troop Support sends snack packs and other support to local men and women serving in uniform from Manatee and Sarasota counties. The number fluctuates, but averages about 45. MOTS volunteers know they never have a complete head count.

“We are always looking for others we don’t know about,” Pat said.

Anyone who would like the MOTS treatment for a loved one in uniform may call 782-0748.

“The welcome home is the best part about my job here,” Pat said.

The family’s happiness is tempered by the reality that all the troops won’t be able to come home. “It’s a blessing that he is coming home at Christmas, but I can’t be selfish,” Lisa said.

“I want to make sure all the troops are remembered at Christmas time. They don’t let it show, but it affects them.”

For more information about Manasota Operation Troop Support, visit

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee Editor, can be contacted at 745-7021.