CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — It doesn't get much better than this: families and friends reunited today when a group of soldiers returned after being overseas for nine months. One soldier met his daughter for the first time today.
It's a moment soldiers with the 181st Infantry have been waiting for for nearly a year now.
When those servicemen and servicewomen walked through the door at the Cambridge Armory – finally back on U.S. soil – loved ones who have been missing them here at home couldn’t contain their emotions.
"It feels great to be home," said Brian Pennell.
"I can't wait to spend time with my son, Lucas, and my daughter, Eva," said Brandon Harsh.
Their kids have grown up quite a bit during the nine-month deployment. When Hercules Lobo left on the mission, his daughter was just a month and a half.
"She's almost 12 months, it's great," he said, tearfully.
Others met their child for the first time.
"It's an unreal feeling," said Mark Butler, whose baby girl was born right after he left.
Holding her now at 9 months, Butler says he can't wait to get to know his daughter in person.
"It's definitely hard, you got to just tough through it," he said. "I'm glad we just made it home."
When those soldiers left for deployment in East Africa, they really didn't know when they'd be returning home. Their families and they say this is the best early Christmas present they could ever ask for.
"When we first left, we didn't think we'd be back for Christmas," said Michael Horak. "The fact the we're this early in December, it's amazing to all of us."
So many things to catch up on, so many new memories to make together, those families say they won't take any of it for granted and are grateful beyond words to be together again.
"Being back just in time for the holidays is perfect," Harsh said.
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