Father returns from Afghanistan, surprises family on Hilton Head

loberle@beaufortgazette.comMay 29, 2014 

Logan Branham didn't expect to see his father for another four months.

His dad, Lt. Col. Matthew Branham, has been deployed with the National Guard in Afghanistan since Oct. 16. He was scheduled to be away a year.

Since then, 17-year-old Logan has been busy taking on the role of man of the house at the family's home in Lehi, Utah, as well as finishing his junior year of high school. With the help of family and friends, he's tried to fill the fatherly gap for his two younger siblings -- Addison, 10, and Preston, 7.

Once school ended, Logan and his siblings planned to head to Hilton Head Island with their grandparents for a vacation.

On Thursday, as the family visited Shelter Cove, what had been a good vacation turned into a great one.

Logan looked up to see his dad making his way through the crowd.

"I had to make sure it was true," Logan said afterwards.

He verified the sighting by running through the crowd and jumping into his father's arms.

"I couldn't say anything," Logan said. "I just started to tear up."

Matthew Branham has been in the National Guard for 27 years, serving a tour in Iraq in 2010 and the current tour in Afghanistan.

He began planning his leave after his wife, Traci Branham, was diagnosed with breast cancer in March.

She underwent two surgeries and a round of chemotherapy.

"I told myself, 'If the tests come back and she needs to have a second round, I was coming home," the guardsman said Thursday.

That second round was ordered, and Matthew Branham surprised his wife last week, returning to Utah just before the children left for the Lowcountry.

"I wanted that time just to focus on her and getting her better," he said.

"And we wanted to be able to surprise the kids," Traci Branham said.

To preserve the surprise, Matthew Branham stayed at a friend's house until the kids left for Hilton Head.

Traci Branham is cherishing the time she has with her husband, but bracing herself for his probable return to the war zone.

"They usually have a three week leave, and then he's most likely going back," she said. "But nothing can take away from this time we have here as a family."

Logan agrees.

"I missed him so much," he said. "He's my daddy."

Related content

The Island Packet is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service