GREENDALE — As 5-year-old Benjamin played with legos at an art studio in Greendale, he had no idea what was in store, until his mom, U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Kristin Dodds, walked in surprising him.
The two hugged instantly. It was the first time they had seen each other after Dodds' 10-month deployment in Europe.
"You're so big," Dodds told Benjamin.
After the initial shock, Benjamin got to show mom the American flag he made for her. Dodds was overwhelmed and emotional as she hugged her family and friends.
"To have it actually happen now is pretty surreal. This is my second deployment. The first time I didn't have kids, so it's quite different this time around," Dodds said.
Her husband was also grateful to have her home for good.
"Oh, it's great! No more exhaustion, back to our regular schedule. It'll be wonderful," said Anthony Mucci.
Balloons and drinks added to the celebration as Greendale welcomed their hometown hero back home.
"I never would've had the guts to do what she's doing. I feel like for the rest of us, to be able to just honor her and their family sacrifice, is just the very least we can do," said longtime friend Erin Dummert.
"It feels awesome. I'm really just overwhelmed, and it's so great to be home," Dodds said.
Staff Sergeant Dodds and her family said they are looking forward to spending more time together.