FRANKLIN, Tenn. — Eric Andonian lifted his 3-year-old daughter Eliza in the air and gently caught her as she giggled on the way down.
His two other kids waited their turn to play one morning before school while his wife, Carmen, fed their 8-month-old daughter Hannah.
“This has been good,” Eric said with a smile. “I went from a war zone to this.”
The corporal in the New York Army Reserve came back home to Franklin earlier this month from a 12-month deployment in Afghanistan. During his tour, his family moved from New York City to Tennessee to be closer.
“It’s a big responsibility, and it was a risk,” he said. “What was going to happen? But as they say in the Army, the community covered down. There was always someone there. It was great knowing that your family is being taken care of and is in a safe spot. That’s something not all soldiers can say.”
Celebrating with community
Pictures of Eric show the moment he strode into the gym at Hunters Bend Elementary School for the community to celebrate his homecoming.
But days later, he still struggled to find the words for what it felt like to be welcomed back by 300 people.
“It was very special, and it was honorable,” he said. “It felt like it was too much. I feel like I didn’t deserve all that.”
His wife and their four children attended the ceremony that included a musical performance by Martin Family Circus.
“The kids needed that moment to shine,” Carmen said. “Teachers cried, parents cried. It was such a powerful thing.”
Every day at 6:45 a.m., Eric gets up while his wife readies herself for work as nurse.
Fifteen minutes later, the day officially starts as he hustles to get everyone ready for school.
While only home a short amount of time, Eric’s already transitioned into become a full-time dad.
“Any chance I get, I am trying to get this house situated and I am juggling a bunch of different things,” he said.
On Valentine’s Day morning, he scurried around the kitchen and made sure each kid had everything prepared, in addition to going to school to help his daughter’s class with craft time.
“I am not sure how good I am going to be at that,” he said with a laugh. “But I am going to try.”
Information from: The Tennessean, http://www.tennessean.com