Soldier’s Daughter Paige Bennethum Welcomes Father Home from Iraq for Good

Paige Bennethum, the little girl who wouldn't let go of her soldier father's hand in a famous photo, welcomed her dad back home to Philadelphia after his tour of duty.

Nearly a year ago, as Staff Sgt. Brett Bennethum was preparing to leave the country for Iraq with his Army unit, his family gave him a tearful goodbye. One member of the family—four-year-old Paige—didn’t want him to leave, however. She was so attached to her father that she held his hand until he boarded the plane, even as he stood in formation with his fellow troops. Paige’s mother, Abby, captured a photo of the powerful moment, and within the space of days, it had been broadcast all over the world. The touching image showed the pain of the sacrifices that soldiers and their families must make every day, and resonated with millions who’d faced similar challenges.

Now, however, the Bennethum family finally has cause to celebrate: Paige’s father has completed his tour of duty and returned home to his family in Philadelphia, bringing the pink Care Bear that Paige had sent him for good luck along with him.

“I like to have him back and its good,” Paige told NBC Philadelphia while cuddling with her father.

Sgt. Bennethum is thrilled to be back with his wife and three children, although he feels that things have changed a bit since he left. “When I left, she was a lot more cuddly,” he said about Paige. “Now she’s a lot more teenagery.”

Paige is looking forward to reading plenty of books and playing lots of games with her dad, now that he’s back at home. And she’ll be able to hold his hand as much as she wants.