Lake Area soldier returns home to see newborn daughter

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - U.S. Army Specialist Etienne Hardy was welcomed back with open arms Saturday night. The Sulphur native arrived home on leave at the Lake Charles Regional Airport to his wife Alisha waiting with their newborn daughter in her arms.

"It's good to be back. It's really good to be back. She is so precious," said SPC Hardy.

Sophie was born last Monday September 12th. The proud father wanted this moment to be special. Even with facebook and email - Hardy resisted temptation and did not view the pictures wanting his first glimpse of Sophie to be a memorable one.

"It's astounding. Words can't really describe what I'm feeling at this moment. I'm kind of breaking down," said Hardy.

As father and daughter gaze into each others eyes, she almost instinctively knows who he is.

"I feel like she does know who I am. She just keeps staring at me. Even though I wasn't there for the labor she knows who I am. It's amazing," said Hardy.

When he left for his first tour of Afghanistan in April, Alisha was four months pregnant. She said it wasn't easy with him being away.

"Even though I had family support it wasn't easy. I was heartbroken when he left. I'm just so glad he's back so he could see her," said Alisha.

"I was worried about the baby. I knew Alisha would be fine. She is strong. But I was just concerned being over there. I was just trying to survive and stay alive in Afghanistan so I could make it back for this moment," said Hardy.

With his new bundle of joy, Specialist Hardy said he's going to make every moment of his 16 day leave count.

"I'm going to be holding her so much. My wife will likely be begging me to get this kid from my arms," said Hardy.

The couple also has a 3-year-old son named Seth. After his 16-day leave, Specialist Hardy returns to Afghanistan to finish his tour.