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Emotional Homecoming For Miami Soldiers Returning From Afghanistan

NORTHWEST MIAMI-DADE (CBSMiami) -- It's been a gloriously happy homecoming Monday for a hundred South Florida families who welcomed their loved ones who spent the last six months serving in Afghanistan helping to train the Afghan Army.

The military families from across South Florida began waiting eagerly for their loved ones to come home on Sunday but the flight was delayed due to engine trouble at an army base in Texas.

Finally, after waiting for hours, the soldiers from the Army Reserve's 841st Engineer Battalion out of Miami finally arrived shortly after 6:00 a.m. Monday.

With tears in their eyes and smiles on their faces, family members were finally able to reunite with the people they love the most.

It was an emotional reunion for everyone involved that included lots of hugs, kisses and tears of joy especially for the children.

"This is my little boy right here," said Ray Rakhar. "It's good to be home, it's good to be home. I miss my little boy over here." To his son hanging on to his father tight, Rakhar said, "Did you miss Daddy? Did you miss me a lot?" The reply was a giant hug. "I know, Daddy is home. No more working for a while," he said to his son with a gentle kiss and hug.

As quickly as they arrived, the soldiers all went home to their families for some much needed rest and relaxation.

Private First Class Tifany Ortega was greeted by her family members and friends, waving glitter-covered signs. At 19-years old, Ortega's family said she is the youngest member of the unit.

She told CBS4's Natalia Zea her tour in Afghanistan changed her for life.

"I grew up, because I just came out of high school so it was a big difference being away, not just another state but a whole 'nother continent, it helped me become a little more independent," said Ortega.

She plans to do it all again. She can be called up again after three years.

It was part of my agreement to be part of the United States Army, to help my country and serve," she said.

Now she just has to convince her dad.

"I missed her a lot, just wish she doesn't volunteer for no more security missions," said Julio Ortega.

Tifany plans to attend FIU and join the ROTC program there. For now, she's spending some quality time with the family that loves her.


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