CHICAGO (CBS) — A national guardsman from the Northwest Side returned home Thursday to a warm welcome from neighbors, and surprised smiles from his kids, after serving his country around the world, including two Middle East wars.

CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley reports a police escort led Staff Sgt. Chris Maderer as he rode his beloved Harley back home to the Norwood Park neighborhood, his wife, Kelly, in tandem.

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Asked which he missed more, his family or his Harley, Chris smiled and said, “Definitely the family. I enjoy the Harley, but the Harley’s a toy.”

Chris has spent 10 years in the Air National Guard, and nine more in the Army National Guard; with deployments to Kuwait and Iraq. It’s a dedication that has meant hardship for a family of four girls.

“I don’t wish that kind of hell on anybody,” Kelly Maderer said. “It really is a family struggle. It’s not just the soldier that gets deployed, it’s the whole family.”

But the reunions are sweet, especially, when they’re a surprise.

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Chris has three daughters at Norwood Park Elementary School. Five-year-old Beatrice, 12-year-old Lexi, and 13-year-old Courtney were all delighted dad was back.

“I saw him over spring break, which was like three weeks ago, but before that it was a year,” Courtney said.

After his visit to Norwood Park Elementary, Chris had one last reunion, with his oldest daughter, 16-year-old Sarah, at Taft High School.

“Unless you’re in a military family, you don’t really know what it’s like to go through all the deployments, and all of the training,” Sarah said. “You just constantly worry about that person.”

Chris isn’t quite home for good yet. He’s back in Chicago for four days before returning to Fort Hood, Texas.

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He needs surgery to repair at least one blown eardrum, maybe two. He’s hoping for a transfer to an Illinois unit, so he can get the medical attention he needs closer to home.