Santa comes early for 171 Army families
SANTA dropped off an early Christmas present for four-year-old James Delaney when his father arrived home from the Lebanon.
Corporal Ian Delaney, from Cobh, Co Cork, was one of the 171 Irish Defence Forces troops who returned from a six-month tour of duty in the south of the Lebanon yesterday.
Touching down in Dublin Airport, there were tears of joy as the troops walked through the doors into the arms of their loved ones -- in plenty of time for Christmas.
Many were met by their parents and partners, but for Sergeant Jimmy Hayles it was an extra special moment, as he was greeted by his wife Diane and his new son Ryan.
Young Ryan was born premature, and Sgt Hayles had only seen him on three occasions before touching down yesterday.
"He was born 12 weeks premature on June 9. But they had Jimmy home within 24 hours of his birth," his wife explained.
Baby Ryan was a little more than two pounds when he was born, which left Jimmy heartbroken returning to duty after the birth. "The Defence Forces were very good to facilitate me to get home to see my wife and son. We can't wait for Christmas, and we are going to have him spoilt rotten," Sgt Hayles said.
Lieutenant Ciara Gubbins, from Fermoy, Co Cork, who also touched down yesterday, is set to jet off again on Saturday, as she embarks on a well-deserved holiday.
Lt Gubbins held an influential role during the tour, as she led her platoon of 28 personnel along the 'Blue Line' -- the Lebanese and Israeli border.
"It was an absolutely fantastic experience. It was something that I won't get to do again," Lt Gubbins said.
A pair of very excited sisters in the airport yesterday were Isabel (5) and Lucy (2) Fahy, who were waiting for hard-working mother Commandant Lorraine Fahy. "It was very hard to be away. But, we will have great fun now, getting back into the swing of things over Christmas," she said.