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Army Ranger returns for special reunion

U.S. Army Ranger Sgt. Matthew Dunlap receives service medal from IndianPatriot Guard  HighlJune 17 2014. | Jim Karczewski/For Sun-Times

U.S. Army Ranger Sgt. Matthew Dunlap receives a service medal from the Indiana Patriot Guard in Highland on June 17, 2014. | Jim Karczewski/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: July 19, 2014 6:18AM



HIGHLAND — When Army Ranger Sgt. Matt Dunlap stepped off the plane Monday night, his 15-month-old daughter, Rosie, smiled and, once in his arms, kept patting him gently on the back as if to say, “Good job, Daddy!”

It was a special meeting between father and daughter. Amy Dunlap gave birth to Rosie while Sgt. Dunlap was serving in the Middle East, and he had not seen Rosie in person since she was a newborn.

He got to know her via Skype, but that was no substitute for seeing her in person, the family said.

On Monday, Matt was reunited with Amy, Rosie and his 5-year-old son, Dale, for good, and friends and family gave him a surprise welcome with a large turnout Tuesday afternoon.

One of Dunlap’s best friends, Chris Gomez, enlisted the help of the Indiana Patriot Guard, who brought out their motorcycles and flags and stood at attention in the parking lot of Plaza Lanes while Amy drove her family through the gauntlet. The look on Matt’s face as the faces of his family registered with him went from confused to embarrassed to joyous.

“I asked Amy, ‘Is that the surprise?’ I think I’ll give Chris a nice, tight squeeze when I see him,” Matt said, smiling.

He served three years, four-month tours at a time, with the Rangers, and his family, while proud of him, is greatly relieved to have him home. The family is waiting for their furniture to arrive at their new home from Fort Benning in Georgia, where Amy and the kids lived while Matt was overseas.

And if Matt wanted to take a little break before returning to the real world, it won’t be much of one. Gomez got his buddy a job with the railroad. Matt’s mother-in-law, Fortunetta Brack, of Highland, said.

“He’s ready to go because he’s excited to have a paycheck,” Brack said. “You know the military doesn’t pay very well.”

Matt’s mother, Cindy Haskell, is excited to have her son back as well. Not only is it a relief, but now there will be plenty of time for her and her husband, Bob Haskell, to spend with the grandkids.

Other friends and family members were present for Matt’s arrival. Margaret Sebastyen, of Cedar Lake, and her son Austin took off work to welcome the old family friend home.

Matt’s grandparents, Nancy and Vaughan Dunlap, and his sister Gretchen, 8, made it in from West Virginia for the welcome. It was a quick reunion, however, because they were leaving Tuesday night to return home.

“I love him! He was gone for too long,” Gretchen said.

Along with providing the gauntlet, the Patriot Guard presented Dunlap with a medal and pin making him an honorary member of the group.



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