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'He's not just my daddy, he's my hero'

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Army National Guard Sgt. Travis Sydow, of Edinburg, holds his daughter Isabella, 2, during a surprise visit at Valley Baptist Daycare on Monday afternoon. Sydow just returned from a tour of duty in Iraq. Rich Cooley/Daily

Father returns from Iraq and surprises daughter at day care center

By Sally Voth -- svoth@nvdaily.com

EDINBURG -- Christmas came two weeks early for preschooler Isabelle Sydow. And, her present wasn't delivered in a sleigh, but via airplane.

Her soldier father, who'd been deployed to Iraq for the better part of a year, surprised her at Valley Baptist Daycare on Monday morning.

Travis Sydow, 25, is a sergeant in the Army National Guard based in Woodstock. He was deployed to Iraq in the spring, and aside from a few days' visit in July in Indiana, hadn't seen his wife, Stephanie, or Isabelle since then.

The Sydows walked into teacher Vickie Showman's room early Monday afternoon.
When Isabelle, who will be 3 later this month, spied her daddy, she turned back to look at Showman before running to Sydow. Isabelle showed him the baby doll she was holding as he hugged her.

"Let's go home," she said.

The little girl was dressed in a pink T-shirt that reads "Welcome home, Daddy, I missed you with all my" beneath which is a picture of a heart with the American flag inside it.
The back says "He's not just my daddy, he's my hero and I'm his princess."

Isabelle gave her father a large welcome home card stamped with handprints of other children in the day-care center. Showman led the rest of the class in a rendition of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."

Mrs. Sydow said she'd shown Isabelle pictures of her father while he was gone and they'd communicated over the Internet.

"We've seen a few [reunions] on the news already, so we thought it would be cute," Mrs. Sydow said of having her husband meet Isabelle at day care.

Sydow, who is an infantry team leader, had just arrived home Monday morning after spending the past month in Kuwait. He's on leave from his job doing security work for the government until mid-January.

Coming home this early was a bonus.

"Our orders were until July, so we were unsure whether or not we would be [able] to get home," he said.

His being back home was "pretty awesome," his wife added.

"That was the hardest part with her age, not knowing whether or not she was going to remember me when I got home," Sydow said.

This was Sydow's second deployment to Iraq in his seven years with the National Guard. The first came in 2007 and lasted 15 months.

"It went really well," Sydow said of his second tour in Iraq. "Everything was slowing down -- all the missions and everything. We were kind of wrapping everything up and handing everything over to the Iraqis. We've done a lot of training with those guys. They have a lot of guys who are prepared to do the job."

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