An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Home : Our Story : Our News : Article Display
NEWS | Feb. 10, 2023

US Army Soldier and Grandmother reunite in the Philippines

By Capt. Alexander Watkins 5th SFAB

MANILA, Philippines – Sgt. 1st Class Christian Araza and his grandmother were reunited after seven years in the city of Olongapo near Subic Bay, the Philippines, Jan. 27, 2023. 

It had been seven years since Sgt. 1st Class Araza and his grandmother, Julie Flores, had been together. On a balmy January day, the two were finally reunited in Olongapo, Philippines, a moment both had been hoping for since Araza found out he was going to the Philippines as an Advisor with 5th SFAB. 

Upon reuniting, the two hugged each other tightly, overcome with emotion and sharing in the joy of each other’s company.

Growing up near Subic Bay, Araza and his family did not have much. However, what the family lacked in money they made up for in love and strength in each other. 

The small home was crowded and busy during Araza’s childhood, but at the core of the love and strength of the family was one person, Julie Flores.

“Growing up in the Philippines, I think it really prepared me to be resilient,” Araza said. 
“Growing up at my nana’s place was hard coming from a family with no money, but my grandma took care of me until I was 16.”

At 16, Araza left the Philippines and became a Soldier soon after, enlisting as a logistician. His journey as a Soldier has taken him around the world, but a part of his heart always remained with his grandmother in Olongapo. 

His next military assignment took him to the Philippines, where he had the opportunity to surprise his grandmother and family, which meant so much to him. 

The surprise was visible on Flores’s face when she first saw Araza. She was overjoyed to see her grandson again and struggled to find the words in Tagalog to capture the joy that she felt. 

Overcome with emotion, Flores said, "I was so surprised when I saw him; I couldn’t believe it. I had heard someone was coming but never would have guessed it was you.”

"If only I knew that you were coming, I would have waited to help you with your laundry," said Flores, as she cracked a soft smile and a small laugh while sitting close to her grandson.

While the two sat down to share memories and time together, Flores reflected on her time raising Araza.
“We show you off to everybody back here,” she said as she described how proud she was of her grandson, “You were able to make a life for yourself that we could not have. It turned out to be good, and I am very proud.” 

Araza said he was overcome with emotion and grateful for the chance to see his grandma again. 

"Being back here in my childhood village, especially visiting my grandma, is a feeling of pure emotion,” he said while holding his grandmother close to him, Araza said.

“I don’t know how to describe it. I am so very grateful for my unit right now, giving me the opportunity to come over here and see my nana”, he added.

Araza is in the Philippines as part of 5th SFAB’s Force Package 23-1, a six-month rotation into the country to bolster combined readiness and strengthen the Philippine and U.S. partnership that is critical to a free and open Indo-Pacific. 

5th SFAB has partnered with the Philippines since July 2021, and the partnership continues to grow and expand. 

Sgt. 1st Class Araza is making a difference in the Indo-Pacific every day. Through his deep personal ties to the region, its people, and his family, he works daily to build upon the ironclad partnership between the U.S. and his homeland of the Philippines.