ETX soldier meets daughter for the first time - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

ETX soldier meets daughter for the first time

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PALESTINE, TX (KLTV) -

Dozens of East Texas soldiers are home with their families for the first time in more than a year.

The forty men and women of Delta Company 3-144 spent nine of the last 16 months serving in Afghanistan.

The Palestine Armory hosted a welcome home event for those soldiers Wednesday afternoon. The group drove in from Mississippi and arrived almost an hour ahead of schedule.

Army specialist Robert Erisman was one of four soldiers who met their children for the first time today.

"We got here and I stepped off the bus and I heard my mom say, 'There's daddy', I look over and there she is," Erisman said.

Until Wednesday, he had only seen his daughter Lilly on an iPad.

"She knew my face on the iPad and when I got here today and saw her she kind of took a couple minutes to recognize me."

"For at least five to ten minutes she just stared at him. It's like they locked eyes and then that was it," said Julia Rutter, Erisman's mother.

Rutter believes technology has changed the way families connect with their soldiers, "Before the internet and before that technology, they would go months and months or even their entire time and not be able to communicate. We'd be in a highchair eating breakfast and the iPad would ring and daddy's there."

Fellow soldier Zachary Brenn said seeing Erisman's reunion prepared him for his own reunion, "I'm anxious, very anxious, and that was something I needed to see you know before I meet my son."

Army Captain Edward Thomas says coming home means starting a new chapter, "Now we're stepping into the next role which is getting integrated with the families and getting everything balanced."

Rutters is still trying to find words to describe her emotions, "It's heartbreaking to see them leave and then when they come home it's just a relief, you can't even put words to it."

Erisman is soaking it all in and says this dream won't feel like a reality for at least another day or two.

Soldiers at Wednesday's event say they can't thank the Palestine community enough for coming out and showing their support. 

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