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When Mom Returns from War

After 22 years in the US Air Force, Staff Sergeant Sue Preiss learned that she would soon leave her home and family near Honolulu, Hawaii to spend six months in Iraq. 

News coverage of the war, focusing on the risks of duty half way across the world, stirred her husband’s resolute commitment.  When she returns from her tour of duty in Iraq,” he recalled, “I knew that we’d have to make a lasting statement.” 

At Sue’s departure, tears rolled and promises were made.  Sue vowed that this would be her last tour of duty.  Just before she boarded the jet, she spoke the words Preston and daughter Courtney (18) had hoped to hear for years.  “I’ll retire when this one’s done.”  

Bombs away 
It wasn’t  long before the reality of overseas duty sank in, over there and at home.  Six months was a long separation, but each passing day brought them 24 hours closer to each other, and the comforts of home.  For Sue, the worst part was the inability to be with her family.  But close behind that sadness was the fear of attack.  Enemy rockets slammed into her facility occasionally, and the sound of distant gunfire was a constant reminder of the very real threat of serving there.

Shock and Awe makeover
Meanwhile, Preston and Courtney (18) conspired to make Sue’s return the best it could be.  “We wanted to dazzle her,” said Preston.  “That meant Courtney and I would need to join forces with some furniture stores, a flooring company, a paint supplier, and some friends in the HVAC business.” 

Preston admitted that the home was ready for some updates.  The 1,400 s.f., three bedroom house, built in ’94, hadn’t seen much change since its construction.  To entertain themselves, and to add credence to their claim that all was quiet on the home front, Preston and Courtney took photos of each other in the house with dirty clothes strewn about, pots and pans left untouched in the kitchen, and pets pawing around on unmade beds

Preston and Courtney replaced carpeting and some of the curtains, painted most of the interior, replaced plumbing fixtures, bought new furniture and a flat screen TV and planted a bunch of shrubs outside.  

“We couldn’t do everything we wanted to do, even with six months to make it happen,” said Courtney.  “So dad and I decided that one thing would remain, and we’d it done soon after her return:  added air conditioning for the home.”

Welcome home
Six months later, Sue returned home.  Tears fell again at the airport, but this time they were crying for joy.  It was over.  

When she first saw the house, Sue was surprised – stunned, smitten and dazzled – at every turn.  “I never imagined a homecoming like this,” she said.  “The joy at being home, with family, and at seeing my house with its extreme makeover was overwhelming.” 

According to Preston, she slept for days.  Gradually, she emerged and was eventually greeted with even better news when Preston and Courtney told her that there was one facet to the makeover they couldn’t accomplish while she was in Iraq – improvements to the home’s HVAC system.

On a perfect Hawaiian day last fall, the Preiss’ watched as a crack installation crew from AMV Air, Inc., based in Honolulu, installed a super-efficient Fujitsu Halcyon ductless multizone.  One of the air conditioner evaporators went into Sue’s upstairs home office and, next to it, the other went into Courtney’s room, two spaces that got uncomfortably warm nine months of the year. 

That’s cool
The ductless Fujitsu system was installed by AMV’s Billy Souza, installation supervisor; John Palpallatoc, apprentice; and Henry Flores, service technician. “We had a few challenges getting the refrigerant lines through the eaves upstairs, but overall the installation relatively simple,” said Souza. 

Fujitsu’s new Halcyon multi-zone equipment has efficiency ratings of up to 16.5 SEER and 9 HSPF and super-quiet operation.  Though many different configurations are available, the Preiss’ chose a 24,000 BTU system with two air handlers. 

Standard features include a wireless remote control for the wall mount units and a wired remote control for concealed ceiling units, a plasma IAQ filter for wall mount units, sleep timer, four-event programmable timer, dry mode, auto louver, auto restart/reset mode and efficient operation with low, or high ambient temperatures. 

“We install a lot of the Fujitsu systems here in Hawaii,” said Aldrin Vallahermosa, president of AMV Air.  “The manufacturer recently added many new lines and configurations, even permitting integration with ducted networks.  But for an installation like the Preiss,’ a conventional ductless setup, with two evaporator units, was a perfect fit.”  

“At last, it’s comfortable and cool upstairs, even in the warmest weather,” said Courtney.  “When the last of our remodeling was finally finished that day, it felt so good knowing that we’d done it for Mom.”

But the ultimate reward for their work was the decision Sue made after 22 years of service in the Air Force.  She came home from the air base one day and corralled her husband and daughter in the kitchen.  “I made a decision this morning and submitted all the paperwork.  The commander signed off on it, so it’s final: 
my retirement from military service will be official soon.”

Sue is now a civilian working for the military in Hawaii.  Preston’s business, a welding enterprise, thrives.  And Courtney is soon to enter her first year of college on the mainland.  And together they now enjoy all the comforts of home.         

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