WATCH: Soldier surprises sons with an emotional reunion

Published: Sep. 7, 2021 at 12:23 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU/Gray News) – Tristan Hondel and his brother rushed into their father’s arms for a tearful reunion from a 10-month tour in Kuwait and Afghanistan.

Family members sent video to WEAU of U.S. Army Reserves Sgt. Matthew Hondel surprising his 9- and 7-year-old sons at the Boys and Girls Club of the Greater Chippewa Valley.

“I had a lot of dreams about dad coming home. And for me, it was like, ‘Is this a dream?’ But it felt really good hugging him, running over there,” Tristan said.

“It was amazing – just having them latch on and not let go, you know. It felt like it lasted forever,” Hondel said. “It was good.”

While this was Hondel’s third tour of duty in the Middle East, his mother, Marcia Finseth, said this return was particularly special since he was able to surprise his boys.

“I can’t even describe how happy I am to have him home,” she said. “I missed him. He’s a grown man, he can take care of himself, but you never stop being a mom.”

Hondel said this tour was a different experience knowing he was missing major events in his children’s lives.

“It’s a whole different experience going away knowing that you’re missing birthdays, you’re missing holidays, you’re missing the school events,” Hondel said. “It’s different because you know that they know what is going on and that they miss you more. When you’re younger it’s a little bit easier. You just focus on the mission.”

Tristan is excited his dad will be around for the holidays this year.

“It’ll be a really nice birthday and a really nice Christmas because he missed the last one,” Tristan said.

Part of Hondel’s mission was preparing for the U.S. exit from Afghanistan. With the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks approaching, Hondel’s journey is coming full circle.

“I joined the military because of 9/11. So to be able to see that to its final fruition is kind of neat,” he said. “And to be a part of that drawdown and the end of America’s longest war, I don’t think it’s really set in yet how surreal it is to be a part of that.”

With the U.S. withdrawal coming under scrutiny, especially after a terrorist attack killed 13 U.S. service members on Aug. 26, Hondel said people shouldn’t look at it through political lenses.

“It doesn’t matter who is in charge,” he said. “It’s when you have a war of that length, trying to pull out it’s not an easy process by any means. It’s kind of like tearing off a Band-aid. It’s incredibly unfortunate that we sustained casualties during the pullout. It weighs heavily on everyone’s hearts.”

Hondel still has a few years left on his military commitment but hopes he won’t have to go overseas again.

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