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Back from Iraq, father surprises son at school

May 30, 2007|By ERIN JULIUS

CASCADE

Army Sgt. 1st Class Chris Laye arrived in Washington County for a two-week respite from his second tour in Iraq shortly before 2 p.m. Wednesday. He was just in time to surpise his son, Nathaniel, at Cascade Elementary School.

Nathaniel, 11, walked toward the gym doors with the rest of his fifth-grade class at dismissal time. He didn't know his father was waiting for him, still dressed in Army fatigues.

Nathaniel spotted his grandparents holding cameras and seemed slightly confused. Then, a smile brightened his face when he saw his dad.

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News cameras surrounded the pair as Chris Laye hugged his son, the boy's feet dangling several feet off the ground.

Chris Laye's parents, Linda and Jonathan Laye of Smithsburg, always have surprises up their sleeve for his visits home, he said.

They once whisked him away on a cruise.

This visit, though, is all about family.

"It doesn't matter where I'm going, he's going with me," Chris Laye said as he stood next to his son for the first time in 11 months.

He and Nathaniel then launched into a conversation about the huge spiders and scorpions in Iraq and Kuwait.

While his dad is here, Nathaniel wants to "play pool and beat him," he said.

Missing a lot of "firsts" makes it hard to be half a world away from his son, Chris Laye said. A few weeks ago, Nathaniel hit his first home run. Pictures just aren't the same as being together, Chris Laye said.

He tries to call Nathaniel on Sundays, and the two exchange e-mails, Chris Laye said.

While he's home, Chris Laye will be able to attend his son's last two baseball games, Linda Laye said.

The two are also going for a ride on Chris Laye's new motorcycle and flying to Las Vegas for a friend's wedding Thursday.

During Nathaniel's first 15 minutes with his father, the two discussed baseball, golf, football and the cello.

Nathaniel proudly announced that he set a personal record for golf, and can now drive a golf ball 200 yards, he said.

Chris Laye joked that he would start caddying for his son if Nathaniel becomes a professional golfer.

Nathaniel's grandparents try to shield the boy from most news coming out of Iraq, Linda Laye said.

"We don't discuss the casualties ... we try to shield him as much as we can," she said.

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