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Surprise, brother!

Photo by Brian Hansel Seven-year-old Preston Butler has his brother, Mitchell Kahlstorf, at home with him again in Deer Creek. Mitchell asked Preston to look after his wife, Brianna, while he was serving in Afghanistan with a National Guard unit.

Preston Butler might have lost his girl but he has his brother back safe and sound.

The seven-year-old baseball player was due for a big surprise Thursday morning when he went to bat during his little league game against, of all people, his brother -- Army Specialist Mitchell Kahlstorf.

The plan was to have Preston lead off at bat for his team. While others distracted Preston's attention, Mitchell would stride onto the field and toss the first pitch.

Rain on Thursday morning washed out the carefully laid plans but shortly after 9 a.m. Thursday, Preston, still in his baseball uniform, had Mitchell back in the Butlers' Deer Creek home safe and sound.

Mitchell arrived in Duluth Wednesday night and was met there by his wife,


Mitchell and Preston made a deal last year just before Mitchell deployed overseas with the Chisholm (Minn.) National Guard unit. Preston would keep Brianna company until Mitchell returned.

"When Mitchell was gone he asked Preston if he would have a 'date night' with Brianna," Mitchell's mother, Melony Butler said.

The answer was "yes."

Preston and Brianna got together every month for their "date" until a short time ago when Preston gave his sister-in-law the bad news.

"We're broke up now," Preston informed Brianna. "Mitchell will be home soon."

Preston is the youngest member of a military family. His father, Blaine, belongs to the Wadena National Guard unit as do his brothers Mitchell, Cody McManigle and Michael Baumann.

Cody and Michael had cooked up the surprise with the help of their former coach, Lance Wohlwend, who is director of the Deer Creek Recreation Program.

Mitchell is glad to be back with his family but he knows there is still a big job left to be done in Afghanistan, where many people still live in mud huts and opium fields fuel the economy.

For now, Mitchell has Preston, Brianna and a big family reunion to enjoy.