State Sen. Mike Rush is going from worrying about rockets in the International Zone (formerly known as the Green Zone) to playing with his .
"It just feels absolutely wonderful to be back home. I missed my wife, daughter, family, friends," Rush said. "I could not be happier to be home with my family."
Rush, in November 2010, and left the Middle East earlier this month as part of the end of major U.S. occupation in Iraq.
As a Navy reservist for 16 years, Rush served with Army and Air Force personnel thwarting terrorist attacks and training Iraqis on intelligence gathering and investigation procedures, he said.
"We learned a lot from each other," Rush said. "There are a lot of terrorist groups still in Iraq, who target both the government as well as innocent civilians, so we did a lot of work in preventing that."
Local state representatives met with Rush and his chief of staff, John Regan, Friday morning at in Dedham Square.
The state senator presented each representative with an American flag flown at the Baghdad base where he was stationed.
State representatives Paul McMurtry (D-Dedham), (D-West Roxbury), John Rogers (D-Norwood) and Angelo Scaccia (D-Readville) each welcomed their colleague - and friend - back to the States over several cups of coffee.
"It's a great situation to have him as a senator and a partner to be able to deliver the services back to our mutual constituents in Dedham and Westwood," McMurtry said.
Rogers looks forward to the ability walk across the hall to discuss district issues - the good and bad - with Rush, he said.
"You can now go over to the senate and discuss strategies with Mike on legislation," said Rogers. "That's what makes the job enjoyable. It is the direct communication that is to the benefit of the people."
While Rush will take the next two weeks to get acclimated to very different sleep schedule and lifestyle, he'll return to Beacon Hill at the beginning of 2012 with plans to meet with Boston city councilors and town selectmen throughout January.
Dedham selectmen already have requested Rush appear at a mid-January meeting to discuss several local issues.
Rush prepared for his deployment by implementing a staff led by Regan, who kept Rush apprised with daily emails.
"My staff - I could not be prouder of them and the work they've done on behalf of the constituents in my absence," Rush said.
But having the state senator back in chambers will provide a great benefit, representatives said.
"He calls us constantly on issues, where we are and what we'd like to do," said Scaccia. "He makes sure our amendments to the budget stay in, so we get a victory, not only for ourselves, but for the people."
Coppinger, a freshman representative, will look to Rush to help fund Department of Conservation and Recreation programs and senior housing initiatives in West Roxbury when budget discussions begin.
"A lot of the time, when you have both the representative and a senator working together with the two budgets, we'll have a better chance of getting funding we're looking for in West Roxbury," Coppinger said.
Rush and his staff will work to develop a legislative plan over the coming weeks, he said, but a main focus will be veteran issues.
"I made sure to talk to as many folks as I could that were mobilized in Iraq," said Rush, who chairs the Veterans Affairs Committee. "There are a lot of issues facing them.
"There is plenty of work to be done, and I have some ideas, coming back from Iraq on how to address some of those and look forward to rolling those out."
But for the immediate future, he'll enjoy the company of his wife, new daughter and friends for the holidays.
"It's nice to sit in a coffee shop," he said. "I am just so happy to be [home]."