Home for the holidays

By Beau Ebenezer

December 22, 2012 Updated Dec 22, 2012 at 7:08 PM CDT

GALESBURG Ill -- Tears came down and cheers rang out Saturday morning for the return of 115 Illinois Army National Guard Soldiers who served in Kuwait this past year.

For one family, finally seeing their very own American hero, David Kuehnel, was more than just a reunion.

"He actually missed pretty much the entire pregnancy. He left when I was 18 weeks pregnant. I'm gonna cry. It's been pretty hard," said Rachel Kuehnel.

U.S. Army Specialist David Kuehnel Jr. was deployed in February, shortly after his wife, Rachel found out she was pregnant.

Now almost a year later, Kuenhel gets to hold his baby son, Jackson Kuehnel, for the first time ever.

"It was overwhelming. It's definitely way different. Just from the long plane ride from Kuwait to Mississippi, and from Mississippi to here so I'm still adjusting but yeah it was good," said David Kuehnel Jr.

Specialist Kuehnel was a part of the 444th Chemical Company that implemented base improvements in Kuwait.

The unit conducted more than 3,000 patrols and secured 71 unexplored areas without loss of life or equipment.

"It was really hard but in order for him to be strong and for me to be strong we just didn't think about it. We didn't talk about it. We talked about what was going on but we didn't go into details," said Rachel.

"You can let it beat you up but the best thing to do is just put your faith in God and go on and live your life and realize there is nothing you can do about it. You just do it the best you can," said David Kuehnel Sr.

This year the Kuehnel's prayers came true.

Baby Jackson and his father get to enjoy the ultimate Christmas present of their first holiday together as a family.

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