As she saw her husband Michael get off the bus Tuesday night, safe and sound, Sarah Thode knew she'd never hear her children ask "is Daddy OK?" ever again.
"I had so much gratitude in my heart, and just joy. I couldn't even cry, because I was so happy to see them together," Sarah Thode said.
Thode spent a year with the 107th Engineer Battalion. He installed electricity, and installed hope in an emerging democracy.
"Knowing that you could give them comforts in their life, just for the children's standpoint, made it all the worthwhile," Michael Thode said.
The Michigan native says with two Iraqi elections in the books, the nation has undergone enormous progress during his tour of duty.
"The communities are starting to accept the Iraqi army. They are starting to accept their authority, and they are realizing that the insurgents are not there just to go against Americans; they are there to against democracy," Michael Thode said.
And while Sarah says her family made sacrifices in Michael's absence, she says they're now reaping lifelong rewards with his safe return.
"My children have that sense of pride ingrained in them as a seven and a five-year-old. To know that they can't have daddy at their birthday party, because he's doing something important for the world," Sarah Thode said.