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Daughter gets surprise visit from dad before he deploys

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By Chris McGinn

INDIAN LAND – Army Staff Sgt. Robert Lathan may be the soldier, but his ex-wife, Monica Lathan, was the one with the mission April 7 – pulling off his surprise visit for their daughter, Danielle, before he deploys to Iraq.

The last time Lathan saw his daughter, she was in a wheelchair following a Feb. 20 car accident. Danielle Lathan, 14, was a passenger in a car that wrecked at Harrisburg and Barberville roads.

She was thrown from the vehicle and broke her collarbone and femur. Three others were injured less severely.

Her father was training in Mississippi at the time and visited on a four-day leave before going to California for additional preparations for his mid-April deployment.

He was scheduled to return to his Monroe home on April 9, but was able to come home a few days early for his last leave before his 18- to 24-month tour of duty.

Mitchell serves with the Army National Guard B Battery, 1st Battalion, 113th Field Artillery unit out of Monroe, working on wheeled vehicle maintenance. He was previously deployed in 2004.

On April 7, he picked up his two younger children from school and came to the Discount Gun Shop in Van Wyck, where Monica Lathan works.

Danielle was supposed to stop by between physical therapy at Southern States in Lancaster and classes at Indian Land High School.

When she walked in the door, she saw him and quickly screamed, “Daddy!” jumping slightly on her still-sore leg before giving him a big hug.

She showed him her improved walking skills before settling in for another hug and making plans for the upcoming days – perhaps their last together for more than a year.

While home, Lathan will see his son Brandon, 8, play in a ball game, celebrate his daughter Nicole’s 12th birthday and see his nephew for the first time.

The children had planned to attend his deployment ceremony at Fort Bragg, N.C., on Tuesday. Lathan will leave soon after for an area north of Baghdad.