Last updated: February 19. 2013 1:09AM - 274 Views

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Mia Ellis met her father for the first time in August when she was just 5 months old. Now, she can‚??t stop saying ‚??da da.‚?Ě
This week, the toddler got a chance to see her ‚??da da‚?Ě in person for just the second time since she was born. Dennis Ellis, a corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps, flew home late Wednesday after a yearlong deployment in Afghanistan.
‚??She has yet to say ‚??mama,‚??‚?Ě said Mary Ann Ellis, Mia‚??s mother, of Dallas.
Four generations of the Ellis family, as well as close friends, were at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport Wednesday night to welcome their favorite military man home.
Sharon Ellis, Dennis‚?? mother, said her son enlisted when he was 25, shortly after graduating from Wilkes University. She said he always wanted to be a Marine.
‚??We told him not to do it at first because it wasn‚??t the best time, with everything that‚??s going on right now,‚?Ě she said. ‚??But now we couldn‚??t be more proud of him.‚?Ě Corporal Ellis‚?? father is Dr. Jack Ellis.
Mary Ann Ellis said she and Dennis, now 27, began dating shortly after he enlisted in the military, but didn‚??t expect the relationship to get as serious as it did.
The pair has been married for more than a year, and Mia Ellis was born just two months after Ellis was deployed overseas. Father and daughter met for the first time when Corporal Ellis was home on leave in August. Mary Ann Ellis has two other daughters, 12-year-old Morgan Jenkins and 5-year-old Adriana Pitts.
‚??Skype is a blessing,‚?Ě Mary Ann Ellis said. ‚??We were able to talk pretty much every day because he was able to have his laptop.‚?Ě
Dennis‚?? grandmother, Louise Castellani of Exeter, walked around the airport terminal Wednesday night carrying a brown paper bag containing a salami sandwich ‚??loaded with mustard.‚?Ě
‚??My grandson loves these sandwiches,‚?Ě she said.
Frank Oatridge III, Ellis‚?? best friend since second grade, got special permission to be at the airport while on duty as an Exeter Borough police officer.
Oatridge, who served in Iraq as a Marine a few years ago, is glad his friend is home safe and with loved ones.
‚??My mother died right before I went to Iraq, and Dennis‚?? mother is like a second mother to me,‚?Ě he said. ‚??They‚??re like a second family.‚?Ě
Mary Ann Ellis was worried that her daughter wouldn‚??t respond to her father when he got off the plane, but amid hugs and kisses from family and friends, baby Mia just kept reaching for her father‚??s face.
‚??I did miss my family, especially spending time with my newborn - I missed her birth,‚?Ě Corporal Ellis said.
Ellis will be in town for two weeks before returning to Camp LeJeune in North Carolina to finish his two years of military service.
He‚??s looking most forward to getting some sleep, eating home-cooked meals and spending time with his family and friends.
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