ALTOONA, Wis. – A 19-year-old soldier has returned home from Iraq (search) to spend time with his mother, who is dying of cancer.
"I didn't know whether I'd get this chance, and now to see her again, it means so much," Pvt. Joseph Wagner said.
Patrice Confer, 44, was diagnosed earlier this month with terminal pancreatic cancer that has spread to her liver. Doctors have given her weeks to live.
Wagner was granted emergency leave last week and arrived home Monday.
"I can hardly believe he's back," Confer said as she and about a dozen family members welcomed Wagner home.
"We ran into some trouble and got sidetracked, but we eventually got out OK," said Wagner, who said he could not elaborate.
Wagner said his mother's condition had started to wear him down emotionally.
"Thinking about that stuff was really starting to affect me on missions," he said. "I had difficulty concentrating, and I would sometimes lose my focus."
Wagner credited his Army comrades with helping him through the last few weeks.
"Once they heard about it, all of them came to offer me support," he said. "My platoon is like my second family."