Two boys participating in the Choctaw Nation Day Care Christmas Program were pleasantly upstaged Thursday.
Jason Rodriguez, 6, and his little brother Josef, 4, were helping a teacher sing “I’ll be Home for Christmas” when their mother walked through the door after a 10-month deployment overseas.
Day care staff members unfurled a “Welcome Home Jennifer” banner behind the boys, who jumped up to hug their mother when she walked in.
“I missed their hugs the most,” said US Air Force 1st Lt. Jennifer Rodriguez. “I was anxious to see them. I felt like my heart was going to jump out of my chest.”
She was originally going to attend a class party with the boys, but the staff at the center convinced her to surprise them and organized the 14th annual holiday event around the home for Christmas theme.
Lt. Rodriguez is a graduate of Durant High School, but has been living in New York where she is stationed. In February, the 10-year Air Force veteran was deployed to Afghanistan while her children stayed in Durant with their grandmother, Linda Gothard.
The reunited family will spend the holidays in Durant, but Rodriguez is returning to New York with the boys in January.
“I had them for a year, so it’s bittersweet,” Gothard said. “I’m going to cry when they leave, but I am glad she’s back.”
So were the boys, who were not shy about running to hug their mother as hundreds of day car students, parents and staff applauded. Many in the crowd were crying tears of joy for the family.
“My Christmas wish would be that Mommy came home,” said Josef. “I got my wish.”