Operation Welcome Home

Army mom surprises daughters with school visit

By Alastair Lee Bitsóí
Navajo Times

TOHATCHI, N.M. , Jan. 16, 2014

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(Times photo – Donovan Quintero)

TOP: U.S. Army Sgt. Leilani Henry becomes emotional while hugging her daughters on Friday at Tohatchi Elementary School in Tohatchi.

BOTTOM: U.S. Army Sgt. Leilani Henry reaches for her five-year-old daughter, Adriana Dean, who she surprised at her school at Tohatchi Elementary School on Friday in Tohatchi. Henry returned from a one-year deployment in South Korea. Her oldest daughter, M’kayla Miska, 9, who also goes to the same school as her younger sister, almost did not recognize her mom because she cut her hair from waist-length to shoulder-length.

When M'Kayla Miska, 9, reported to the music classroom with her class on Jan. 10 at Tohatchi Elementary, she thought it was to see her little sister, Adrianna Dean, 5, and her kindergarten class perform a musical.

It was set up that way until their mother, Army Sgt. Leilani Henry, walked through the doors of the music class to surprise her daughters with her visit, a welcome home for the Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom veteran.

As soon as music teacher Jessica Maynerich said, “I want to see all kindergarteners looking at me," Henry walked into the classroom.

Unsure that the woman with short hair and dressed in military garb was their mother, the two girls had to take a moment to digest their shock, before they ran toward and embraced their mother in an emotional exchange of hugs, kisses and tears.

“Ya'at'eeh! Welcome home!" shouted Miska's and Dean's classmates in unison.

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