Wednesday 1 March 2017

Heroes' welcome for Dads' Army returning from duties in Lebanon

Denise Calnan

Denise Calnan

Fresh from peacekeeping duties in the Lebanon, Private Thomas Grant has a brand new mission - "Daddy Duties".

It was an extra-special homecoming for Thomas, from Stamullen, Co Meath, who met his baby daughter Sophia Grace for the very first time.

Pte Thomas Grant meets his 10-week-old daughter, Sophia Grace, and partner Sinead Brennan Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Pte Thomas Grant meets his 10-week-old daughter, Sophia Grace, and partner Sinead Brennan Photo: Kyran O'Brien

However, the 10-week-old, dressed in a patriotic white dress with green trimmings, seemed non-plussed by all the celebrations at Dublin Airport yesterday as family and friends cheered members of the returning 51st Infantry Group.

"Little madam hasn't a clue what is going on, she's only interested in her bottle," said her mother Sinead, who added that Thomas has a new mission, "Daddy duties".

While the momentousness of the occasion was lost on little Sophia Grace, it wasn't on her proud father.

"This is unbelievable," Thomas told the Irish Independent, as he held his daughter in his arms.

Pte Blain Cromie with his son James and partner Sinead Duffy Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin.
Pte Blain Cromie with his son James and partner Sinead Duffy Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin.

"She's fairly big now, 10 weeks old, she'll be signing up now soon," he joked.

Thomas and his comrades have spent the last six months in the Lebanon as part of the United Nations Interim Force.

Speaking about the deployment, Thomas said: "It was quiet enough now, no trouble at all.

"It was hard enough, going back will be hard," he added, looking at his new daughter.

Families wait at the airport Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin.
Families wait at the airport Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin.

Families had hit the road from early yesterday morning to arrive at the airport, where they greeted the soldiers' return at 6.30am with homemade banners and flags.

And after such a long time away, many said it was a "fantastic feeling" to finally be back home.

Corporal John McGuigan from Newry, Co Down, was welcomed by his daughter Blathnaid (3) and his partner Christina.

Meanwhile Private Michelle Tarpey from Roscommon had her very own welcoming committee made up of fiancé Corporal Jeremiah Loughran, daughter Grace and son Nathan, who had made her a special banner.

Lt Christopher Bonus with his pregnant fiancée, Sabine Kennedy Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin
Lt Christopher Bonus with his pregnant fiancée, Sabine Kennedy Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin
Cpl John McGuigan with his daughter Blathnaid Photo: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie
Cpl John McGuigan with his daughter Blathnaid Photo: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie
Sgt Tommy Kane with his daughter Laoise Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin.
Sgt Tommy Kane with his daughter Laoise Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin.

Irish Independent

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