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Airman returns home from Iraq war to hugs and kisses

July 27, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

When Travis Morgan - who is just back from serving with the U.S. Air Force in Kuwait - was greeted on his return home by his 15-month-old son, DeLyn, the toddler not only recognized his father but gave him a hug and a kiss, Morgan said Saturday.

"He wasn't the huggy type before," Morgan, 24, said.

DeLyn could not even walk when Morgan was sent in March to Kuwait, where he did plumbing and other work for the Air Force's 332nd Air Expeditionary Group.

When Morgan was first sent overseas, DeLyn would call up the stairs for "Dada." After a while he stopped calling, Morgan's wife, Catherine, said.

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The Morgans' daughter, Ciana, who is almost 4, had a better idea that her father was involved in something dangerous, Catherine Morgan said.

In her daily prayers, Ciana said, "God bless America, God bless the world. Daddy fights the bad guys to keep us safe. Amen," her mother said.

In the last week she has added a new sentence.

"She prays for the other daddies to come home safe," her mother said.

On Saturday, Ciana kept hugging and playing with her father.

"She has been all over me," Morgan said.

As part of a civil engineering group in Kuwait, Morgan, an airman 1st class, worked to keep a base on the Kuwait-Iraq border in good condition for those staying there and going through on the way to and from Iraq, he said.

He returned to America on July 15 but had to go to where he is stationed in Montana before driving home last week to be with his family.

The Morgans are moving back to Montana in mid-June. While he plans to stay in the military, he hopes to get transferred to a base closer to home, he said.

On Saturday, Morgan thought he was going to a birthday party for a neighbor at the home of his wife's grandparents, Stephen and Edna Heffner, south of Keedysville. Instead, he found friends and family members were holding a surprise welcome home party for him.

"It is nice. It is a nice welcome home," he said.

Travis and Catherine Morgan grew up in Boonsboro, but after working at a job selling cars he joined the Air Force in February 2001. His role in the military took on a more serious tone after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, he said.

The Morgans have lived at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls, Mont., since he was stationed there about two years ago.

When Morgan's unit was deployed to Kuwait last month, his wife decided to move back to Washington County with their children and three dogs. Catherine Morgan - with help from her best friend - drove across country and settled in with her grandparents,

Meanwhile, Morgan was working on the base. While he saw no combat, there were 23 times when the personnel there had to put on chemical gear, including masks, jackets and pants, in anticipation of a possible chemical weapons attack.

Just as viewers at home watched CNN for updates on the war, so did the members of his unit, Morgan said.

"That is how we would know what is going on," he said.

He was able to call home only about once a week but had unlimited access to e-mails and would send messages and pictures back home, he said.

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