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Letter to the Editor: Return from Afghanistan

After a long separation, Hank Reid and his family have been reunited with their son after a long tour in Afghanistan.

(Editor's note: this letter to the editor was sent by .)

We often remember those moments in our lives when we can say Christmas came early. I can say that moment for me and my family came at approximately twenty two hundred hours a day and a half ago. My attempts at military lingo may fall short but what my family experienced far exceeded many joyous emotions I can remember.

Almost two years ago, a tough but necessary decision was made for my eldest son Davonta to join the Army. Understanding all the risks with the added experience of personal tragedy, my wife and I knew that he was no more safe here as a young man with a mind of his own and no plan for the future, than in the military with a planned, contracted future as a soldier.

The effects of that decision created dissention and needless to say, almost two years went by without more than a one minute positive conversation with my son. I don’t know whether Facebook was a blessing or a curse, but it was the only way we knew anything about what and how he was doing. A marriage, a baby and then a deployment to war in Afghanistan all via Facebook… not the way I thought this would go, but that’s the hand we were dealt.

A month ago we were blessed with our first grandchild, Joshua William Reid. I knew if there was one thing that would open my son’s eyes to God’s plan for him and show him his purposed path, it would be a wife and a child of his own. Not the normal position a parent would take for their children at such a young age but most of us know that’s the moment we understand it’s not just about us… the truth be told, it has never been about us as individuals. God takes care of us. He wants to see us take care of each other.

Davonta wasn’t back stateside for the birth of Joshua but God saw to it that the bullets that hit his body went no further than the protective clothing he wore and the helmet that protected his head and that the images of death and destruction didn’t destroy the mind that he had been blessed with. No, God saw to it that he would return to assume his most important mission as father to his son and husband to his wife.

On Thursday morning, almost a week after returning from Afghanistan, Davonta called me and said, “Dad, we’re going to make the trip”. We were going to get our son back as a man with this beautiful, brave new woman in his life and this blessing of a baby, all under the same roof. He wanted to come home. I wanted to make sure he knew he was appreciated and missed by not just the Reid family but as much of the South Gwinnett Community he grew up in I could reach in a short period of time.

Knowing he wanted to see his little brother Chace play Friday night Football, I immediately began garnering support from the football program at South Gwinnett which agreed to honor him for his bravery and sacrifice with a public acknowledgment before the game and at halftime, preferential parking for his family and admission into the game. The challenge was keeping this a surprised all day and preparing the house for guest.

I told the girls if they cleaned as if their grandmother was coming to sleep over, we would drive to Fort Bragg, North Carolina to visit their brother on Saturday… it worked. As the evening went on I checked in with Davonta while he was in route and did what I could to keep this huge surprise under wraps. The evening started to move on and the family dinner conversation started to even bore the kids. The girls were tired and it was already past Chace’s bedtime with a busy academic day and a big Friday night game ahead. “Time for chores” I said. That was my final stalling ploy almost an hour past the normal schedule.

This process was winding down, 10 o’clock had come and still no surprise. Preparations for bed were almost complete with one child remaining downstairs finishing chores and then it happened. Unbeknown to anyone else, I saw the car pull into the driveway and I almost exploded with excitement. Within seconds, there was a knock at the door. My wife wondered who, and then I heard Neenah scream, “Oh my God!” She never gets excited but I knew she was missing him terribly, as was all of his sisters and brother. “It’s Davonta” she shouted, as the other girls and even Chace ran down the steps.

As I eluded earlier, most of you parents can vividly remember the excitement of your kids the first time you had the chance to make Christmas happen for them and the looks on their faces as they ran to the tree to see what Santa Clause left them. This far exceeds that feeling of emotion. I stood at the top of the steps as the kids ran past me one by one screaming, “Vonta!”

My wife, the mother of the son she felt was lost to her, who she affectionately refers to as her first born first, walked out of our bedroom with her jaw dropped carrying a look of total confusion. She looked at me and saw the look on my face and knew I had something to do with what was happening. She smiled, punch me hard in the chest as any loving wife would do, knowing their husband was able to keep something from them and went downstairs to the biggest surprise anyone could imagine.

I came down the steps and there they where… my Family, my sons and daughters, my beautiful new daughter-in-law, my wife happier than I’ve EVER seen her and the Blessing… my grandson, Joshua William Reid.
This, my friends, was truly the greatest moment of my life.

We as a family have endured a great deal of loss in recent years and have been blessed with eye-opening miracles solidifying our Faith throughout the years. That process of life “ups” and “downs” gives way to clear perception of what’s important in life and expressly highlights the value of living life forward and not in the past. God has written the book for all of us. We just need to be patient enough to read it without trying to skip ahead.

Kenneth Stepp October 08, 2012 at 01:30 PM
My son, son in law, and best friend went there and returned safely. Memories they wish they never had and lost team members take a toll. I remember waiting for word after they had a mission. It's tough on them and their loved ones. God bless this soldier and his family.

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