For Sergeant Aimee Magnus, the holidays are back.
Last year, instead of carols, she heard the crack of gunfire and rockets.
"You learn to shrug off the mortars," said Magnus. "You hear them and just keep walking."
Magnus arrived in Afghanistan just days before Christmas last year.
"It was not fun," said Magnus. "It was three days before that I got into [the] country. Everyone else was opening up cards and boxes, and I didn't even have an address yet."
After a 12-month tour with the 470th Military Intelligence Brigade, Magnus surprised her mom at San Jose Mineta International Airport on Saturday -- and spent Monday catching up with her mom in front of the family Christmas tree in San Jose.
The Blue Star Moms, an organization which supports families with members in the military, arranged the surprise for Magnus's mother, Pat Giordano.
"Oh, it lifts the weight off my shoulders, knowing she's back in the States and out of harm's way," said Giordano.
It's the first time in four years the family will all be together.
Previously, Aimee's brother, Matt Sanfillipo was deployed with the 173rd Airborne.
He served two tours, and is now a San Jose police officer.
"it's absolutely wonderful,," said Giordano.
Magnus is on a 28-day leave.
She'll then head back to her base in San Antonio, Texas.
Magnus doesn't think she'll get deployed again, but knows the call can arrive at any time, especially with the troop surge ordered by President Barrack Obama.
For a worried mother, there's finally joy and relief now that her baby, her soldier is home for Christmas.