While a mother was deployed in Afghanistan for nine months, her three children showed incredible strength and resilience as they waited for her return.
Waiting is something that many adults struggle with — we wait with impatient hearts, sometimes filled with fear, anxiety and frustration.
But for military kids across the country with deployed parents, waiting is a part of life.
After being away from her kids for nine months, Sgt. 1st Class Zerphlee Watson was ready to put an end to their waiting.
Watson, who has been in the Army for over 15 years, decided to surprise her three children, one at a time, while they were at school.
“I just wanted to surprise them because oftentimes we forget how resilient military kids are,” Watson told USA Today.
“That was my fourth deployment, third combat,” she said. “So definitely they were scared.”
There were times she would have to hang up suddenly during a phone call, leaving her kids to wonder if their mother was safe as sirens wailed in the distance.
Sometimes, long periods of time would pass before Watson would be able to call home to let her kids know she was OK.
When Watson finally did get to come home, she started by surprising her daughter, Janiyah, a student at Smiths Station Junior High School in Alabama.
Janiyah thought she was participating in a video interview for the school newspaper, so didn’t think twice about the video camera in the cafeteria.
When the student reporter told Janiyah to turn around, she shrieked with excitement at seeing her mother’s face.
Watson was home safe and sound, clad in her Army uniform, eager to embrace her daughter.
From there, Watson went to her youngest daughter’s elementary school classroom and snuck inside without her daughter noticing.
As soon as she saw her, Jakylah leaped into her mother’s arms, wrapping her entire body around her mom in a big bear hug.
Finally, Watson went to her son’s high school, where he was in the middle of a faculty and student basketball competition in the gym.
Jayden was blindfolded as he participated in a game, walking on his hands toward his mother who was sitting in a chair.
When Jayden saw his mom, he gave her a shy wave and a quick hug, later admitting he felt embarrassed by the surprise.
“Do you know the girls that were in the gym?” the teenager said to his mom.
In the end, Jayden, along with his sisters, felt incredibly grateful to have their mom back.
Watson is proud of her kids, acknowledging that while their family’s sacrifice is painful at times, they all emerge stronger and more thankful for their time together.
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