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Hugs of sorrow and hugs of joy: The journey downrange and home again

Pfc. Jeremy Monteleone holds his daughter Jaden as his wife, Tiana Musson, and his son, Emrick Monteleone, wait their turn while being reunited after a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan.<br>Joshua L. DeMotts/Stars and Stripes
Pfc. Jeremy Monteleone holds his daughter Jaden as his wife, Tiana Musson, and his son, Emrick Monteleone, wait their turn while being reunited after a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan.
Pfc. Jeremy Monteleone carries his daughter Jaden, 4, to car in the early morning hours of Aug. 26, 2013 as he prepares to leave for a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan. Jeremy's mother, Kate Monteleone, back left, came to Germany to say goodbye to Jeremy and to help out Jeremy's eight-month-pregnant wife Tiana Musson, back right.<br>Joshua L. DeMotts/Stars and Stripes
Pfc. Jeremy Monteleone, second from right, boards an airplane from Ramstein Air Base, Germany on his way to Afghanistan for a planned nine-month tour, Aug. 26, 2013.<br>Joshua L. DeMotts/Stars and Stripes
Pfc. Jeremy Monteleone spends time with his daughter Jaden, 4, in their home on Rose Barracks, Germany the day before he deployed to Afghanistan for a planned nine-month tour, Aug. 25, 2013.<br>Joshua L. DeMotts/Stars and Stripes
Pfc. Jeremy Monteleone Skypes with his wife, Tiana, from his room at Kandahar Airfield that he shares with two other soldiers, Oct. 13, 2013.<br>Joshua L. DeMotts/Stars and Stripes
A section of wall at Jeremy Monteleone's house on Rose Barracks, Germany is covered by a collage made by his wife and daughter that counted down the days until his return and listed daily events that happened while he was away.<br>Joshua L. DeMotts/Stars and Stripes
From left to right, Jaden Monteleone, 5, Tiana Musson and seven-month-old Emrick Monteleone walk to gym on Rose Barracks, Germany where Jeremy Monteleone and his unit will arrive for a brief ceremony after a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan, April 8, 2014.<br>Joshua L. DeMotts/Stars and Stripes
Jeremy Monteleone and his unit march into a gym on Rose Barracks, Germany for a brief ceremony after completing a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan, April 8, 2014.<br>Joshua L. DeMotts/Stars and Stripes
Jaden Monteleone, 5, sees her father for the first time after a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan, April 8, 2014.<br>Joshua L. DeMotts/Stars and Stripes
Pfc. Jeremy Monteleone holds his daughter Jaden as his wife, Tiana Musson, and his son, Emrick Monteleone, wait their turn while being reunited after a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan.<br>Joshua L. DeMotts/Stars and Stripes
After a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan, Pfc. Jeremy Monteleone and his family are some of the last people to leave the gym just after being reunited at Rose Barracks, Afghanistan, April 8, 2014.<br>Joshua L. DeMotts/Stars and Stripes
Jaden Monteleone, 5, grabs the hand of her father,Pfc. Jeremy Monteleone, as he carries his deployment bags home after a seven-month deployment, April 8, 2014.<br>Joshua L. DeMotts/Stars and Stripes
Pfc. Jeremy Monteloene holds his daughter, Jaden, and son, Emrick, after arriving to his home on Rose Barracks, Germany after a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan. Jeremy saw his son for the first time in person as he was deployed during Emick's birth.<br>Joshua L. DeMotts/Stars and Stripes

VILSECK, Germany — Seven months after leaving his family for deployment to Afghanistan, Pfc. Jeremy Monteleone embraced them again, pulling his daughter into his arms and cradling, for the first time, his 7-month-old son.

Like other soldiers who filed into a banner-strung gymnasium Tuesday to the cheers of family and friends, the 24-year-old infantryman from Chicago will now try easing back into family life, a readjustment after nearly a year away at war.

The deployment was largely quiet for his unit, a troop that patrolled the long stretches of road connecting outlying bases to their own, a large logistics and command hub. Yet the days brought their own intensity, as soldiers trained and prepared as if every trip outside base gates could turn into a fight.

Now Monteleone looks forward to the coming weeks with his wife, Tiana, and his children, 5-year old Jaden and Emrick, a family he’s only seen via Skype over the past seven months. He hopes to travel, and he’s already thinking about the things he couldn’t do or get in Afghanistan.

“I was so excited, everyone was talking about what they were going to eat and drink first,” he said last weekend. “I even told Tiana, ‘I want to sit down and take it all in, just take it all in.’ ”

After the reunion will come the new routine; Monteleone will fall back into formation, return to training and say goodbye to fellow soldiers moving on to other units. He’ll re-enlist, he said, and he looks forward to working with a new first sergeant.

And although he didn’t get the combat badge or the experience many soldiers hope for when deploying, he said he appreciates the experiences he did have.

“We are always told 1 percent of the American population joins the military, and 1 percent of those people go infantry, and even fewer of those deploy — ‘Congratulations you are a select few,’ ” he said. “Honestly, at first I thought those were just blank words, but really it does make me feel better, because it’s true. I may not have that combat badge, but I have a deployment patch.”

demotts.joshua@stripes.com

beardsley.steven@stripes.com
 

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