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Kishara Allen screams for joy as she sees her husband, Spc. Lacy Thompson Jr. Thompson and around 200 other soldiers came home on Christmas Day from a 15-month Iraq deployment with the 44th Expeditionary Signal Battalion.
Kishara Allen screams for joy as she sees her husband, Spc. Lacy Thompson Jr. Thompson and around 200 other soldiers came home on Christmas Day from a 15-month Iraq deployment with the 44th Expeditionary Signal Battalion. (Seth Robbins / S&S)
Kishara Allen screams for joy as she sees her husband, Spc. Lacy Thompson Jr. Thompson and around 200 other soldiers came home on Christmas Day from a 15-month Iraq deployment with the 44th Expeditionary Signal Battalion.
Kishara Allen screams for joy as she sees her husband, Spc. Lacy Thompson Jr. Thompson and around 200 other soldiers came home on Christmas Day from a 15-month Iraq deployment with the 44th Expeditionary Signal Battalion. (Seth Robbins / S&S)
Kishara Allen hugs her husband, Spc. Lacy Thompson Jr., who returned from Iraq on Christmas Day. Thursday also marked the first time Thompson saw his 6-month-old son, Lathan Thompson.
Kishara Allen hugs her husband, Spc. Lacy Thompson Jr., who returned from Iraq on Christmas Day. Thursday also marked the first time Thompson saw his 6-month-old son, Lathan Thompson. (Seth Robbins / S&S)
Maj. John Harris' kids crowd around him, with 7-year-old Jack and 11-year-old Catherine hanging on to his legs.
Maj. John Harris' kids crowd around him, with 7-year-old Jack and 11-year-old Catherine hanging on to his legs. (Seth Robbins / S&S)

MANNHEIM, Germany — Kishara Allen sat with her 6-month-old baby Lathan in her lap. The boy slept amid screaming crowds and chants of “Welcome home.”

When he finally opened his large brown eyes, he saw his father for the first time.

“I can’t even describe it. It’s awesome,” said Lathan’s father, Spc. Lacy Thompson Jr. “I’m just so happy to be back.”

The families of the 44th Expeditionary Signal Battalion got the best Christmas present of all Thursday when their loved ones came home after a 15-month tour in Iraq.

Signs festooned the Sullivan gym, and it was clear Christmas had been put on hold until the 200 soldiers came home. Toys from Santa Claus couldn’t even match the sight of a father, mother or spouse.

“We really did get our husbands for Christmas,” said Valerie Vogel.

Vogel showed the soft bulge of a baby. She had gotten pregnant when her husband, Spc. Joshuah Vogel, was home on rest and recuperation, and the baby is now due in a few weeks.

“I’ve been trying to not go into labor,” she said.

Robin Demshar said Christmas Eve didn’t feel right without her husband, Sgt. Adam Demshar. But they would celebrate later with a home-cooked stew.

“We’ve been wanting this for 15 months,” Demshar said, holding her 1-year-old son Hunter. “This will be his first Christmas with his father.”

The four children of Maj. John Harris crowded around him, two anchored to each of his legs. Instead of celebrating Christmas, the kids painted 15 signs welcoming their dad home. One bright orange placard said: “Dear Santa, all I want for Christmas is Daddy.”

What was more exciting — hugging dad or tearing open a freshly wrapped present from Santa, which they would do in just a few minutes?

“Presents only last for three months,” said 9-year-old Emily. “Your dad lasts forever.”

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