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Dad returns home from second deployment

9/7/2012

By RANDY GONZALES

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

It's tough, whether he's gone for a few weeks or for a year.

What matters now, though, is Sam Gross is back home.

Gross, a captain in the U.S. Army Reserves, has been back in Hays for almost a week. He and his wife, Deb, surprised their two children Sunday at church. Sam was introduced to the congregation, much to the surprise and delight of David, 13, and Daphne, 10.

"I was having a heart attack and crying at the same time," David said.

Deb originally planned to surprise the children at school, but Sam found out he would not get back until Saturday. Deb then asked the Rev. Jerre Nolte at First United Methodist Church if the kids could be surprised during Sunday services. No problem.

It has been somewhat of an adjustment to home life after serving as a dietitian in Kuwait for almost a year.

"It's nice," Sam said. "Obviously, a transition again.

"Trying to integrate back into family life; it's challenging," he added. "Part of it is building a relationship with the kids and Deb again, and the family members. It's been a year's time, which has been a long time."

David missed playing chess with his dad, who got home in time for his son's first football game at Hays Middle School, on Saturday.

"We're going to get back to doing stuff, outdoors things," said Sam, who also is looking forward to seeing Daphne in her activities, which include volleyball and softball.

With his dad gone, David was outnumbered by females in the house.

"Since he left, I'm the only boy in the house," he said. "I had no one to play with in the house -- except the dogs."

Sam was deployed this time with the 325th Combat Support Hospital. His other deployment in 24 years in the Army Reserve was for nine months in Bosnia in 2002-03.

Being in effect a single parent was trying, Deb said.

"That's the hardest part, going from companion teamwork; at least we have just two kids to juggle -- I can't imagine any more.

"Taking them to their activities, that's the most difficult, I think," she added. "Him not being here during their programs, I think that's hard."

Deb said what helps when Sam's gone is having a good support group. Friends and family pitched in.

Phone calls, email and using Skype helped while Sam was away. It especially helped to have that technology when a math problem had Daphne puzzled.

"Dad's like the king of math, and mom's like the daughter of math," Daphne said of her parents' math problem-solving skills.

Did dad help with the math problem? Was it mission accomplished?

"Yep," she said.