Welcome home, Baer: 21-year-old returns from Afghanistan to meet new daughter
RICHARDTON -- Returning home from a tour of duty overseas, you would think Spc. Dillon Baer would be most excited to reunite with the friends and family he has known for years.
Instead, Baer, part of the National Guard's 818th Engineer Company out of Williston, was thinking the most about someone he had never met.
You see, Baer's daughter, Grace, was born nearly three months ago, while he was nearing the end of a 10-month tour in Afghanistan. Baer, 21, met Grace for the first time last week after returning home -- along with Sgt. Kory Twardowski of Dickinson -- a little later than the rest of the 818th Company.
"Meeting my daughter for the first time was scary and awesome at the same time," Baer said. "I watched her being born on Skype and I saw pictures of her and everything, but to actually hold her was just awesome. She seemed happy to see me, surprisingly."
Baer's girlfriend, Tricia Schoch, said it was stressful having him gone, but that she's thrilled her new family is whole again.
"The entire time he was gone, we did updates on Skype and Facebook and he got to watch me grow," Schoch said. "But to have him back and actually hold Grace is just amazing. You could tell right away that she's Dillon's daughter -- she looks just like him."
A 2011 graduate of Richardton-Taylor High School, Baer said he plans to move to New England with his new family . After taking some time to readjust to a civilian lifestyle, Baer said he plans to seek work in the oil field.
"I'm going to relax for a little while and spend some time with my family," Baer said. "The living conditions over there weren't really that bad, but there are some things that weren't fun, like all the dust. You couldn't keep anything clean. I'm just enjoying being home right now."
While he was overseas, Baer purchased a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and plans to spend some time on the open road as the weather continues to warm up. During a recent trip to Dickinson, Baer said he really noticed how much the city and area has changed just in the short time he had been gone.
"It's changed a lot, I couldn't believe it," Baer said. "In Dickinson and even around here, there are so many houses that have gone up. We have a new grocery store in Richardton, (Springfield Market) that's just amazing for being here. In one way, it seems like it's a very long time, but, in another way, it's like I never left."
A nursing student at Dickinson State University, Schoch said she is looking forward to moving into the couple's first home. With Dillon home safe, she said she is able to sleep a little better at night.
"There was a lot going on," Schoch said. "I was in school and pregnant and constantly worrying about if he was all right over there. It's a lot of stress, but you just have to do what you have to do. I missed him every single day when he was gone and I'm just so glad that he's back."