TAMPA, Florida -- Through the crowd of suitcases and passengers at Tampa International Airport, youcould see the smiles and the signs of a familywaiting for their U.S. Marine to come home.
"It's not easy," said Dana Chuva,"But when you really love somebody, it's worth it."
During each of her husband's four deployments,she went through this wait. But her daughter, four-month-old Sophia, never has before.
"Are you excited to meet daddy?" Dana asked a smiling Sophia.
It wasSophia's first time ever meeting her dad, Contract Communications Field Specialist Fernando Chuva. When she was born, he was already in Afghanistan.
Sophia came dressed for the occasion, with a shirtthat said, "Welcome home Daddy! Your princess missed you," along with acamo ribbon in her headband and a handwritten sign that read, "I've waited my entire life to meet you."
"When we were in the hospital, we videotaped that and sent it to him, but I think he's only Skyped with her three or four times. The Internet's not very good over there, so it's very difficult," Dana said.
Sophia looks and acts like her dad, which made the wait easier for her mom.
"I feel like now, I have a part of him home," said Dana.
And Monday morning, when her husband's flight landed, she had all of him home. Fellow passengers and complete strangers stopped to take it in.
"No words to express it. I'm just so happy. Oh Jesus," he said after meeting Sophia. He's looking forward to relaxing and going to the beach with her.
He'sback in Tampa for two weeks of R&R before returning to Afghanistan, but he expects to be home to his wife and baby daughter before Christmas and this time, it'll be for good.