FORT HOOD — With Christmas around the corner, Spc. Luis Cruz’s homecoming couldn’t have come at a better time.

“It feels great,” Cruz said during a Brunch with Santa event Sunday at Club Hood.

Cruz returned Wednesday from Gardez, Afghanistan, with the 720th Military Police Battalion, 89th Military Police Brigade. He spent his first weekend back making memories with his wife, Sarah, and 2-year-old daughter, Sophia.

“We missed out on a lot last year, so she’s having fun with him,” Sarah Cruz said as her husband perused the buffet tables, walking hand and hand with Sophia. “It feels pretty good.”

Gabby Krieger-Perez, assistant manager of Club Hood, said about 360 people signed up to come, with about 110 residents from the 76th Street Chapel supporting Club Hood by attending the brunch.

“We always celebrate Christmas, so this is a natural fit for us,” said Lt. Col. Brian Crane, chaplain for traditions at the chapel. “We just appreciate the facility and the opportunity to use it. It’s great.”

The event is a way to provide a happy event for soldiers, civilians and their families, Krieger-Perez said. “We have this every year. It’s a way to give back to our community, especially the children.”

Sophia was excited to sit in Santa’s lap and ask him for a jump rope as her parents enjoyed spending family time together.

“This year she’s really into Christmas,” Sarah Cruz said. “She loved it.”

Contact Sarah Rafique at or (254) 501-7549. Follow her on Twitter at KDHreporter.

I'm the education reporter at the Killeen Daily Herald. Follow me on Twitter at

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