CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa — Two fathers met their babies for the first time Friday night when their unit returned from a seven-month deployment.

“In Iraq I just had pictures. This is way better than that,” Capt. Dev Spradlin said, looking down at his daughter conked out in her stroller.

Six-month-old Alexandra managed to stay awake just long enough to meet her dad before giving in to the long blinks and crashing on his chest.

About 240 Marines with Hansen-based 9th Engineer Support Battalion got home Friday from Camp Taqaddum, Iraq.

As Gunnery Sgt. Tyrone Cantey approached his wife at the reunion she peeled back a blue blanket to reveal his 5-month-old son, Nathaniel. Cantey leaned in and stroked his head.

“We’ve been waiting for this,” Cantey’s wife, Barbara, said.

The families waited for hours for the Marines to arrive and then giddy excitement swelled as the battalion came marching up the street.

“For seven months we’ve looked to this date,” said Megan Duesterhaus, who was there to greet her husband, 1st Lt. Greg Duesterhaus.

Many planned on taking leave in a couple of weeks, but most of the Marines said immediate plans were to do a whole lot of nothing but hanging out.

“I’m going to spend time with the girls,” 1st Sgt. Melvin Lewis said about his wife and two daughters.

Lewis got home just in time for a father-daughter dance with his youngest, 9-year-old Meosha.

Brittany Snyder, married to the unit’s chaplain, Navy Lt. Alan Snyder, said besides buying a car they didn’t have any major plans.

“We’ll stay home and chill out,” she said. “And if we don’t want to get out of our pajamas we don’t have to — it’s okay.”

9th ESB homecoming slide show

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