Welcoming home an Army mom

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The Kids in Motion Daycare and Learning Center in Atlasburg hosted a very special guest Monday. Army Spc. Amanda Baker told stories of what life in the desert was like to help them better understand exactly what a soldier did. And while she amused everyone in the preschool center, there was one child in particular who was happier than the rest to see the servicewoman – her son.


“It was really hard to leave them,” Baker, 24, of Atlasburg said of her family. “But it makes you value the time you do get with them.”


Baker was among a contingent of soldiers who returned home Saturday just in time for the Easter holiday after a nine-month deployment.


Dressed in fatigues, she visited the preschool with her husband and was greeted by a room full of happily cheering youngsters waving American flags. Her son, Connor, was happy to show off his recently returned mother to classmates.


With the help of preschool staffers, Baker turned natural curiosity into a learning opportunity. She told of perils of desert life – scorpions, lizards and 135-degree heat – and the kids took away from it the kind of things kids do.


“There’s a camel in ‘Aladdin,’” observed 5-year-old Brenna after Baker, an automated logistics specialist, described riding one of the stubborn desert beasts.


A description of Army living accommodations prompted another query.


“Were the stars up in the sky at night?” asked 3-year-old Chloe. “I made a tent with my daddy, but I was pretending there were bears the whole time.”


Connor’s father, Andrew Baker, 28, is a veteran himself. He left the Army a little over a year ago. For the past 13 months, he has been fathering solo while also working as a draftsman at Cameron Measurements in Coraopolis.


“For me, it’s already been easier since she’s been back,” Andrew Baker said. “Getting up at 6:30, packing lunches, taking care of the dogs and the car – it was tough. But I had a lot of help from her father.”


In addition to the normal constraints placed on military marriages, Andrew Baker said his time in the service made it more difficult at times.


“The thing that made it hard on me was I knew some of the stuff that was happening,” Andrew said. “But she couldn’t tell me what she was doing on a certain day. That can stress you out with everything going on in the news.”


Baker, a member of the U.S. Army Reserves’ 316th Expeditionary Sustainment Command unit, will be home for the next few months before having to report back to the base in Coraopolis. In the meantime, the family has planned an upcoming trip to Disney World. Even with technological advances allowing families of deployed service members to speak face to face over the Internet, the family said they have some catching up to do.


“I regret missing his third birthday,” Amanda Baker said. “We tried to talk over Skype, but it cut out.”


As for young Connor, he’s just happy to have his mom back.


“I went up and gave her a big hug,” he said when asked what his reaction was to first seeing her.


“He’s been right with me ever since,” Amanda Baker added.


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