by J. Speer
SSgt Miller took the overnight flight home.
It was a grueling flight much like the desert sands and blazing heat of the Middle East.
It had been a long year since he’d seen his children, now 14 and 8 years old.
The gym was a packed house.
He stood in the hallway in uniform near the school trophy cases.
Filled with deep emotion inside, he appeared calm and collected on the surface.
The school announced a special guest of honor over the intercom.
His daughter was on the Varsity team playing basketball.
She was a guard on the court.
The team was 7 and 2 this season.
It was something that together they discussed frequently over the long-distance phone calls at night.
He had taught her how to play ball.
Years ago in the driveway of their family home, they shot hoops together and played horse.
He told her how to hold the ball just right for free throw shots and how to release it into the air.
When the school principal motioned him to enter the gym, his heart skipped a beat…
As did hers when she saw her father across the court.
She ran to him.
He held his arms out open wide.
His hat was in his left hand.
Her little brother and the soldier’s wife were already moving towards them from the stands.
Tears welled up in the faces of many nearby in the crowd as father and daughter embraced.
He kissed her forehead and smoothed her hair.
He held her tight.
She looked up at him smiling.
“I love you, Dad,” she said softly and shyly so only he could hear.
“I missed you.”
“I’m home,” he said with heartfelt gladness.
His son hugged them both.
The boy was grinning happily as he pressed his head against his father’s side.
His wife stood close by allowing her children this moment with their father.
She was crying tears of joy as well.
The crowd smiled and clapped loudly.
He was finally home.