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Back from Afghanistan, soldier finds comfort in daily chores of family life

Brennan Linsley / AP

Not much more than a week back from Afghanistan, 1st Lt. Aaron Dunn smiles while holding his baby, Emma, at home in Fountain, Colo. on Dec. 8, 2012.

Brennan Linsley / AP

Aaron Dunn kisses his wife Leanne as they reunite during an arrival ceremony for soldiers returning from a deployment in Afghanistan, at Ft. Carson, in Colorado Springs on Nov. 30, 2012. 1st Lt. Dunn, with the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, had not seen his wife and baby since he deployed in March.

Brennan Linsley, a photographer with The Associated Press, spent time with the family of First Lt. Aaron Dunn over the past month as they adjusted to Aaron's homecoming from Afghanistan.

"Emma was 5 months old when I deployed, and 14 months old when I returned," explains Dunn, pictured above holding his daughter beside the Christmas tree at his home in Fountain, Colo.

Emma had little clear memory of him when he came home, Dunn explains, though he had been able to witness her growing up during his 9-month deployment thanks to the wonders of modern communication. "I was able to stay in touch with the family and had the luck to watch Emma begin to crawl via Skype," he says.

Nevertheless, it has taken some weeks for her to accept his role as a parent after so long away. "I have basically let Emma set the pace with what she is comfortable with," Dunn says. 

Brennan Linsley / AP

Aaron Dunn removes his belongings from his army duffel bag on the morning of his return from a deployment in Afghanistan, Nov. 30, 2012. Dunn's combat team was charged with engaging Taliban fighters in Kunar Province and mentoring Afghan government soldiers.

Asked what he'll miss about Afghanistan, Dunn says: "Probably getting to do my job. It's one thing to train, but it's a whole different thing when you are actually doing what you have worked so hard at during training. The rewards are there."

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"In my opinion, its tougher on the families, especially after the unit takes a casualty. I personally can't imagine waiting, not knowing if your loved one is alive or even alright, and having a panic each time a car drives by your drive way thinking it's the military chaplain and escort coming to see you."

Brennan Linsley / AP

Aaron Dunn tries to feed his baby Emma as his wife Leanne watches, at home in Fountain, Colo. on Dec. 9, 2012.

Brennan Linsley / AP

Aaron Dunn cuts a Christmas tree in an area of National Forest reserved for seasonal cutting, as his wife Leanne carries their baby Emma in a backpack, outside Woodland Park, Colo. on Dec. 8, 2012.

Asked about switching gears from fighter to family man, Dunn says: "A lot of people seem to think that 'quality time' will make up for a long absence. It doesn't. Its 'quantity time' that does that. It's the time spent doing things that are fun, but also the time spent doing the daily chores, and other routines that firmly bring a family together."

Brennan Linsley / AP

Aaron Dunn and his wife Leanne, left, look at photos of Dunn's fellow soldiers in Afghanistan as baby Emma vies for their attention, at home in Fountain, Colo. on Dec. 9, 2012.

Brennan Linsley / AP

Three weeks back home from the war in Afghanistan, Aaron Dunn and his wife Leanne pray during services at their church, in Colorado Springs on Dec. 23, 2012.

"War and coming home are going to mean different things to each soldier," Dunn says. "For me it was God and family. I get my security in life from my hope in God, and my companionship and support from my family."

Brennan Linsley / AP

Aaron Dunn and his wife Leanne cook at home in Fountain on Dec. 9, 2012.

Asked what's the best thing about being home, Dunn says: "Family - at the risk of sounding cliched, I really don't care about much else but being with family and the ones I love... and the ability to decide on a whim to go somewhere without any concerns or restrictions - like getting shot at." 

Brennan Linsley / AP

Aaron Dunn watches as his wife Leanne reads a bedtime story to their baby Emma on Dec. 9, 2012.

More from Brennan Linsley: In harm's way: Photographer documents moments of relief, heartbreak in Afghanistan

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