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Gainesville church welcomes home Afghan vet

POSTED: January 12, 2014 11:33 p.m.

Nicole Bowers was a little concerned her 21-month-old son might be a little shy around his father, who was fresh off a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan.

That hasn’t been nearly the case.

“I’ve kind of turned into chopped liver now,” Bowers said with a laugh. “Everything’s ‘Daddy, Daddy, Daddy.’”

On Saturday, she welcomed home her husband, Sgt. Daniel Bowers, who served as part of the Georgia National Guard’s 214th Field Artillery Battalion, based in Elbert County.

And, Sunday night, the Buford couple’s church, First Church of the Nazarene, 1301 Otila Drive, Gainesville, off Dawsonville Highway, celebrated his return with a dinner in the church’s fellowship hall.

“Our whole church has been in this (deployment) with him, sending him the sermons and that kind of thing,” said Kristi Huff, wife of Pastor Gary Huff, who helped coordinate the event.

Bowers, who has been a guardsman since October 1999, was greeted by church members waving American flags and saying “welcome home” as he walked down a hallway with his wife and son.

“Daniel, we are so proud of you,” Kristi Huff said in a brief program before dinner.

Bowers has completed two tours of duty in Afghanistan, where the U.S. and its allies have been fighting groups such al-Qaida and other insurgents since 2001.

Being home “feels good,” he said in an earlier interview. “I’m just trying to catch up on everything that’s changed. When I left, my son wasn’t walking and now he’s walking, talking and running.”

Work hasn’t been as tough an adjustment.

“Over there, I was a mechanic on trucks. I do the same thing here. I get two days off a week instead of working seven.”

While he was gone, Nicole’s nephew’s third-grade teacher at Sardis Enrichment School in northwest Hall County decorated pillowcases for the soldiers in her husband’s unit.

Nicole helped with the effort, bringing snacks for the students.

“Hopefully, it will remind (the soldiers) of what’s back at home — that’s what we hope, that it at least puts a smile on their face,” she said at the time.

Daniel said the pillowcases helped boost spirits.

“It was almost like the best gift, because you could see them every day,” he said. “People weren’t using them (as pillowcases). They were hanging them up on their walls and doors.”

In an interview last year, Nicole said the months she and her husband were apart due to his military service were tough.

“Sometimes, it felt like (time) was dragging, especially over the summer,” she said Sunday afternoon. “The holidays helped speed things up. I’m just glad it’s over with.”


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