By Robbie Owens

Soldier Surprise 2

NORTH TEXAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – At Midlothian’s LaRue Miller Elementary, flags, songs and handmade signs made for a warm welcome home for Army Specialist Aliyah Ben-Israel.  But, Ben-Israel is more than a soldier, she’s a parent, and she’s ‘Mommy’ to LaRue Miller second-grader Tristyn Hatley.

With a delighted squeal of “Mommy,” Tristyn hurled herself into her mother’s arms with all of the force that her tiny frame could muster.

What Tristyn thought was a school pep rally was instead a surprise welcome home and reunion.  Spc. Ben-Israel has been stationed in Hawaii for the past four years and hadn’t seen Tristyn in person for some 15 months.

“I just tell her that I’m fighting for her country and her freedom, and it doesn’t always pan out the way it should,” Spc. Ben-Israel said, describing the words of comfort she offers her daughter. “I just tell her that I love her. We Skype as much as possible, so then, that way I can see her.”

But, the separation – the silence sacrifice of the nation’s service members – has been hard.

“I just miss her so much, and she’s gotten so big,” the North Texas mother said as her wide smile suddenly turned to tears.  “I just feel like I haven’t even gotten to see my son grow up.  It’s so hard.”

The Specialist isn’t the only protector, Tristyn hurries to comfort her mom and soon they’re both in tears.  But, the sadness of months long absences were quickly set aside, as fierce hugs and snuggles reminded them both that mom is here now.

“Thanksgiving began a month ago,” Ben-Israel said with a laugh, “as soon as I got my ticket and got my leave to come to Texas.  I’ve been counting the days.”

When mom is away, Tristyn lives with an adoring dad and grandmother.  And her 5-year-old baby brother helps keep the little girl busy, as well.

So for now, they get to wipe the tears away, and just play. “Bounce houses, parks and ice cream!” Tristyn said excitedly, as she recounted her favorite things.  And it sounds like a perfect way to start a holiday.

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