As the U.S. winds down its military presence in the Middle East, Missouri's For Leonard Wood is one of the sites where American soliders plant their first steps back in their home country. MDN's Tong Gao was at the base as one Army unit returned home this month.
|Description: "Who's coming home today?" "Daddy." "How long has he been gone do you remember?" "I don't know." "A year."|
When Valerie married Michael, she knew her husband could leave at any moment.
Sergent Michael Zimmerman serves at the 55th Mobile Augmentation Company.
In Afghanistan, he is working on one of the most dangerous jobs--- clearing homemade bombs on the roads.
10 days before Valerie gave birth to their son Henry, Michael was deployed.
He missed the birth of the boy, yet he is always the hero of the family.
|Description: "We talk about daddy all the time. Daddy calls all the time, he skype with them all the time. They know, hopefully he knows who daddy is. I told Michael it might be a little bit adjustment to come home. You have a new baby that doesn't really know you."|
Now Henry is almost 1 year old.
|Description: "Ba.. baba.." "You say Da da."|
Valerie says as an army wife she has gained more than what she has given up.
|Description: "He knows that I love him and I know that he loves me. I'm gonna cry. It's really hard not having him here."|
Valerie is not the only one who's looking forward to the family reunion.
More than 90 soldiers returned home from Afghanistan this day.
After 12-month being apart, the Welcome Home Celebration is a spirit of excitement.
The Lieutenant Colonel Christopher McGowan said although the next deployment is unknown, the soldiers are always prepared to say goodbye.
|Description: "But for the family, it's a little different. They have the same stress and anxiety as the soldier does who's deployed. But they are at home and can't be close. I think for the soldiers it's really just, you are worried about your family, and how they are being taken care of. That really would helps."|
And the returning hero Michael Zimmerman is ready for his job as a father.
|Description: "I'm just happy. I love it. I want more and more and more. That's my plan."|
Reporting from the State Capitol, I'm Tong Gao.