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Concord Guardsman returns home to wife, meets son for first time

  • Spc. Derek Dutcher, left, kisses his two-month-old son Declan after meeting him for the first time and reuniting with his wife Becca, right, on Thursday afternoon, January 16, 2014. Spc. Dutcher was one of the New Hampshire National Guardsmen in the 237th Military Police Company that returned from almost a year-long deployment in Afghanistan. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Spc. Derek Dutcher, left, kisses his two-month-old son Declan after meeting him for the first time and reuniting with his wife Becca, right, on Thursday afternoon, January 16, 2014. Spc. Dutcher was one of the New Hampshire National Guardsmen in the 237th Military Police Company that returned from almost a year-long deployment in Afghanistan.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Declan Dutcher, 2 months, rests in his mother's arms while waiting for his father, Spc. Derek Dutcher, at the National Guard Army Aviation Facility in Concord on Thursday afternoon. Spc. Dutcher was one of the New Hampshire National Guardsmen in the 237th Military Police Company that returned from almost a year-long deployment in Afghanistan. This was the first time he met his son. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Declan Dutcher, 2 months, rests in his mother's arms while waiting for his father, Spc. Derek Dutcher, at the National Guard Army Aviation Facility in Concord on Thursday afternoon. Spc. Dutcher was one of the New Hampshire National Guardsmen in the 237th Military Police Company that returned from almost a year-long deployment in Afghanistan. This was the first time he met his son.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Spc. Derek Dutcher searches for his family, teddy bear in hand, after arriving at the National Guard Army Aviation Support Facility in Concord on Thursday afternoon, January 16, 2014. Spc. Dutcher was one of the New Hampshire National Guardsmen in the 237th Military Police Company that returned from almost a year-long deployment in Afghanistan. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Spc. Derek Dutcher searches for his family, teddy bear in hand, after arriving at the National Guard Army Aviation Support Facility in Concord on Thursday afternoon, January 16, 2014. Spc. Dutcher was one of the New Hampshire National Guardsmen in the 237th Military Police Company that returned from almost a year-long deployment in Afghanistan.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Becca Dutcher, center, holds her two-month-old son Declan while reacting to her husband Spc. Derek Dutcher coming into the National Guard Army Aviation Support Facility on Thursday afternoon, January 16, 2013. Spc. Dutcher was one of the New Hampshire National Guardsmen in the 237th Military Police Company that returned from almost a year-long deployment in Afghanistan. This was the first time he met his son. Dutcher's friend held up a sign for her that read "I've waited my whole life to meet you!!! Welcome home Daddy!!!"<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Becca Dutcher, center, holds her two-month-old son Declan while reacting to her husband Spc. Derek Dutcher coming into the National Guard Army Aviation Support Facility on Thursday afternoon, January 16, 2013. Spc. Dutcher was one of the New Hampshire National Guardsmen in the 237th Military Police Company that returned from almost a year-long deployment in Afghanistan. This was the first time he met his son. Dutcher's friend held up a sign for her that read "I've waited my whole life to meet you!!! Welcome home Daddy!!!"

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Spc. Derek Dutcher, left, kisses his two-month-old son Declan after meeting him for the first time and reuniting with his wife Becca, right, on Thursday afternoon, January 16, 2014. Spc. Dutcher was one of the New Hampshire National Guardsmen in the 237th Military Police Company that returned from almost a year-long deployment in Afghanistan. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Declan Dutcher, 2 months, rests in his mother's arms while waiting for his father, Spc. Derek Dutcher, at the National Guard Army Aviation Facility in Concord on Thursday afternoon. Spc. Dutcher was one of the New Hampshire National Guardsmen in the 237th Military Police Company that returned from almost a year-long deployment in Afghanistan. This was the first time he met his son. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Spc. Derek Dutcher searches for his family, teddy bear in hand, after arriving at the National Guard Army Aviation Support Facility in Concord on Thursday afternoon, January 16, 2014. Spc. Dutcher was one of the New Hampshire National Guardsmen in the 237th Military Police Company that returned from almost a year-long deployment in Afghanistan. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Becca Dutcher, center, holds her two-month-old son Declan while reacting to her husband Spc. Derek Dutcher coming into the National Guard Army Aviation Support Facility on Thursday afternoon, January 16, 2013. Spc. Dutcher was one of the New Hampshire National Guardsmen in the 237th Military Police Company that returned from almost a year-long deployment in Afghanistan. This was the first time he met his son. Dutcher's friend held up a sign for her that read "I've waited my whole life to meet you!!! Welcome home Daddy!!!"<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

She saw him first.

He was the first one off the bus, the first one to stride into the hangar where she was waiting with the crowd.

He held a teddy bear.

She held their son.

“Can I run right now?” she asked, her brown eyes shining and wet, staring straight at him as he scanned the row of faces for hers.

Then he saw her, and he covered the ground between them in a few long strides, and he leaned in to kiss her.

Then Becca Dutcher introduced her husband, Spc. Derek Dutcher, to their nearly 3-month-old son, Declan.

Derek Dutcher, 28, was among the 110 members of the New Hampshire Army National Guard’s 237th Military Police Company who have been away 11 months – two for training in Fort Bliss, Texas, and then nine for a deployment in Afghanistan.

Yesterday, they came home.

The Dutchers are used to distance. They met at Concord High School and started dating more than 10 years ago, and they stayed together while he worked in Concord and she studied psychology at Keene State College.

“We watched them grow up,” said Mary Hogan, Becca Dutcher’s mom.

“I think they balance each other out. Her strength balances his weakness, and vice versa. He’s very tall, she’s short.”

She works at a law firm in Concord, where the two were living together when Derek Dutcher decided to join the Army National Guard. He proposed in early 2012 when she came to South Carolina for his graduation from basic training.

They found someone to marry them that day. They did the fancy wedding, with bridesmaids and flowers and vows, about three months later – but Becca Dutcher, now 26, said they just didn’t want to wait any longer once he had proposed.

“We had been together for so long,” she said, laughing.

And then Derek Dutcher learned he would be deployed to Afghanistan.

“When he joined the Army, it was always in the back of my mind,” she said.

She never thought it would happen.

“And it did, and it didn’t take long,” she said.

The 237th Company left last February. Derek Dutcher had been in basic training at Fort Bliss for two weeks when his wife found out she was pregnant.

“At first, it was terrifying, I’m not going to lie,” Becca Dutcher said. “But I think this pregnancy helped me through the deployment. I always had a piece of my husband with me.”

He sat through some of her doctor’s appointments on FaceTime. She sent him videos of the baby’s heartbeat.

When Declan was born, Hogan stepped in as the labor coach for her daughter.

But she also held an iPad, because even though it was 4:30 a.m. in Afghanistan and he could only participate in the birth via FaceTime, Derek Dutcher wasn’t going to miss this.

“We had Derek on the iPad go out into the waiting room and announce he had been born,” Hogan said.

Declan will turn 3 months old tomorrow, Becca Dutcher said. As she talked about the delivery room, her anxious fingers kept moving back to the baby, touching his toes in their camo-print socks, adjusting the olive-green cap she made for him with his dad’s name tape from his Army fatigues.

“The smile, the smile (Derek) had on his face is the No. 1 thing I remember,” his wife said.

Becca Dutcher was also beaming yesterday as her husband stepped back into line after kissing her, waiting for his orders. “You’re dismissed,” Major Gen. William Reddel III told the rows of uniformed soldiers.

A cheer went up for the crowd that rushed forward to officially greet their loved ones, and Derek Dutcher was free to join his wife and son again where they stood with friends and family. The sign hanging on Declan’s stroller read, “I’ve been waiting my whole life to meet you!!! Welcome home Daddy!!!”

“Just to have him home, it’s the best feeling anyone could feel,” Becca Dutcher said.

Declan cried as his dad took him in his arms for the first time. But he stopped as his dad kissed his head. Derek Dutcher, staring at his son like he could never stop looking, touched Declan’s face with one finger.

“I have no words to describe the feeling of holding my first child, my first baby son,” Derek Dutcher said.

They posed for their first family photographs as other families began to trickle out of the hangar. The Dutchers planned to go home and just “be a family,” Becca Dutcher said.

“I hope someday he can grow up like his dad, in the military,” Derek Dutcher said of his son. “And like his mom, strong.”

The three of them stood together, Becca Dutcher holding the baby as her husband bent in.

“Who’s that?” she asked Declan. “Who’s that?”

And Declan reached out and wrapped his little fingers around one of his father’s.

(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or mdoyle@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)

Related

PHOTOS: Family of the soldiers in the 237th Military Police Company and their welcome signs

Thursday, January 16, 2014

After 11 months apart, many of the soldiers in the New Hampshire Army National Guard’s 237th Military Police Company were ready just to see the faces of their loved ones at their homecoming. But families brought more. Balloons, shirts and elaborate banners projected messages of love and welcome. One local company, Advantage Signs in Concord, even offered military families help …

Legacy Comments1

I know these two people very well. It is such an amazing thing to see him be able to hold his son for the first time!

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