For a man used to staring down the enemy, the anticipation of finally seeing his daughters left its mark.
"I am just totally excited right now, this is a great opportunity," said Sgt. Keith Howse.
"This is the zoo I came to as a child, so for me this is my childhood memory, so I want that to be for my children also," said Keith's wife Aja Howse.
Just 10 minutes into the dolphin show, the real waterworks began.
Eleven-year-old Jorja and 7-year-old Nataja hadn't seen their dad since last November.
The 40-year-old sergeant is in the Midwest for two weeks, during which time the family will attend his brother's wedding. July 12 he heads back to Afghanistan to continue his work of transporting troops and supplies to the frontline in the fight against the Taliban
"It was kind of hard to grasp the moment," said Sgt. Howse. "I was intently focused on their faces and just getting to them. It was probably one of the most memorable moments of my life."
"He's better than Superman," said daughter Jorja.
The Howse family is actually living at the U.S. forces base in Rammstein, Germany. Later this summer the girls and their mom will head back there, but not before lots of R&R with dad in Chicago.
Sgt. Howse's Afghanistan deployment should last several more months. He has just re-enlisted with the Armed Forces for another six years.