His parents, sister, grandmother were all waiting expectantly at O'Hare Airport early Wednesday morning. Each had with their own thoughts of relief that Eric would be safely home for the third time.
Then he appeared.
Eric is now 26 years old. He's been a medic in Iraq, then Afghanistan. This last tour was 15 months in Afghanistan.
"It's been over a year and a half. I didn't realize how much I missed them until I saw them," said Staff Sgt. Eric Zlatkin, army medic.
Eric's grandparents left Russia years ago and came to the U.S. for a better and safer life for their son Eugene. So several years ago, when Eric enlisted in the army, his grandmother was proud, but filled with trepidation.
"After September 11, he go sign paper to go in Arm. I so afraid. I say why, why. I don't want him to be in army," said Marianna Zlatkin, Eric's grandmother.
But, explains Marianna, Eric reminded her about leaving Russia, reminded her about why she loved this country, and he did too.
"Somebody have to pay respect for this country and he do it," said Marianna Zlatkin.
Eric's favorite foods have been cooked for him and he'll celebrate July 4 with his entire family. He has three weeks at home before reporting back to Fort Bragg, North Carolina.