NEAR DHAHRAN, SAUDI ARABIA — NEAR DHARAN, Saudi Arabia -- Army Spc. Darin Bokeno drove 2 1/2 hours through the Saudi desert yesterday to say Merry Christmas to the brother he last saw a year ago at his parents' home in Harford County home.
It was a chance encounter in a portside Army supply building here that first alerted Specialist Bokeno that his older brother David had arrived "in country" with his Maryland National Guard company and that a holiday reunion just might be possible.
"I really didn't think I'd get to see him," said 20-year-old Darin Bokeno, whose Air Defense Artillery unit arrived in Saudi Arabia as part of Operation Desert Shield two months ago. "It's the next best thing to being home for Christmas."
"He even brought me Christmas presents," said a delighted David Bokeno, as the two brothers stood in a desert campsite now home to the Towson-based 290th Military Police Company.
"Food. Food!" said the older Bokeno, referring to chocolate-covered Rice Krispy bars, Nutty Buddies and a pack of pudding his brother presented to him.
Darin's search for his brother began two weeks ago, when in a phone call to his wife, Dawn, he learned that his 26-year-old brother had left for Saudi Arabia with his National Guard company.
While on a supply run in the port city of Dammam, Darin walked up to a soldier with a military police insignia on his sleeve and asked whether by chance he was part of the military police battalion to which his brother's company belonged.
"Yes," said the military policeman, who agreed to deliver a message to Darin's brother.
The MP brought David Bokeno greetings from his younger brother and gave him his mailing address here in the desert kingdom.
David then wrote his brother and told him approximately where the military police battalion had set up camp. He included the names of two towns he remembered from a nearby highway sign.
Darin Bokeno got the letter Friday. As luck would have it, Darin's company was scheduled to train yesterday at an artillery range not far from his brother's compound.
After one wrong turn, Darin and his commander pulled into the campsite of the 400th Military Police Battalion, shortly after noon.
David Bokeno was in his bunk when a friend called out, "Hey, Bokeno, you've got a visitor." Guardsman Bokeno, who back home is a Towson State University student, got his hat and strapped on his gas mask -- no one travels anywhere without it.
He stepped into the blazing afternoon sun and hugged his younger brother.
Darin was 14 pounds thinner than when David last saw him at their family home in Abingdon, last Christmas.
"You're still shorter than me," David told his brother.