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Home at last: GI returns from third overseas deployment to meet son for the first time

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By Vicky Gits

For Army Sgt. Eric Bishop, last week’s homecoming from South Korea — his third overseas deployment — meant seeing his 10-month-old son, Sebastian, for the first time.

 

For his wife, Charlotte, who spent the last year wrangling a 2-year-old and changing and feeding their new baby, the event held simpler significance.

"I am hoping to get more sleep," she said.

Sebastian was born last June 28, and during the past 10 months he saw his father only in photos and on a computer screen. 

"My major concern is being together as a family. You don't realize how much they do until they are gone,” Charlotte said of her husband, whose previous tours were in Iraq (15 and 12 months).

While Charlotte was caring for Sebastian and daughter Abbigale, now 3, she also was studying for her bachelor's degree in criminal justice and sociology at Metropolitan State College of Denver. She graduated this semester but was able to attend the ceremony.

"I didn't realize how much I would have to give up," Charlotte said.

Fortunately, she had in-laws living nearby in South Jeffco, Wayne and Linda Bishop, who helped a lot. "Two kids is a handful," Charlotte said.

Gone were the days when she had time for her favorite pastimes of working out in the gym and hiking. So she picked out a three-story townhouse with stairs on purpose and took a lot of walks with the kids.

Many people wonder how she does it all. "I just do it," she says. "It's not easy, but if I gave up on anything, my family would be the ones to suffer."

‘He would make me laugh’

Ordinarily, one might picture an airport reunion with the returning warrior. But that wasn't going to work, because on the day of Eric’s homecoming, May 8, Charlotte was scheduled to take a final exam at Metro State. She also thought a busy airport might be intimidating for Sebastian.

So she arranged to stage the big homecoming at the Goddard School, a preschool on Shaffer Parkway in the Ken Caryl Business Center where Abbigale and Sebastian have been regular attendees since February.  

Mandy King, the school’s owner, has two grown sons in the military, so she loved the idea.

Charlotte and Eric were raised in Lakewood and attended Green Mountain High School. They weren't a couple in high school, but they were something more than just friends.

"We were fairly close. He would make me laugh. He was kind of a goof, and he still is," Charlotte said.

She asked him to the prom one year, and he turned her down for another date. "He still takes a lot of grief for that," Charlotte says.

The romance didn't materialize until a chance meeting at Southwest Plaza shopping mall a few years after graduation. The couple decided to get together and have coffee. They were both single.

All of a sudden they fell in love, and six months later, in 2005, they were married at Lakewood Christian Church.

Eric joined the Army two months after they were married.

"I understood that deployments were inevitable, but it never crossed my mind he would deploy as often as he has," Charlotte said.

Eric has been in the Army for seven years. During his tours in Iraq, he served as a field artillery mechanic; he hopes to become a helicopter pilot.

The family is moving to Fort Lewis, Wash., where Eric Bishop will be stationed. He doesn't know if or when he will be sent overseas again, but said a return to the Middle East might be on the agenda. 

The couple's reunion night was spent playing with the babies and going to Applebee's for dinner because it was one of the few places open that late. They splurged on a night at a nice hotel in Lakewood.

The reunion

But late afternoon on May 8 at the Goddard School, the only thing that matters is the figure in military garb who walks in the door and makes his first stop in Abbigale's classroom. At first she’s a little hesitant, playing hard to get. Then she settles into Eric’s bear hug as he calls her "Pumpkin."

His next stop is the infant room, where all the babies except little Sebastian have already been retrieved by their parents.

A calm child with a contented demeanor, Sebastian is unfazed by being the center of attention, surrounded by crying adults and a news photographer.

The big guy in the camo and boots crouches down and finally gets the kiss he's been waiting for all these months, and with the family finally all together, the long, painful wait is over.

Contact Vicky Gits at vicky@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22.