When the company arrived home, only Alina and friends were there to meet R.J. The children were waiting at home, expecting Alina’s return so they could take family photos. Little did they know, R.J. was just minutes away, and he was going to give them a big pre-Thanksgiving surprise.
Though Alina’s oldest daughter, Haleigh, 13, knew her step-dad was home thanks to a little slip-up, the other four children seemed to have no idea, although R.J.’s oldest son, Robby, 10, had a hunch that his dad was coming home.
“[Haleigh] wouldn’t tell me the surprise,” Robby said. “I was like, ‘what’s the surprise,’ and she was like, ‘guess.’ I said, ‘my dad’s coming home early,’ and she said, ‘nope.’ I know it’s got to be that, there’s no other surprise that can happen. It didn’t really surprise me at all.”
As the cameraman, secretly an Ottumwa Courier reporter, got the children to sit together for a quick photo, R.J. came through the back door of their home to surprise his family. It took all of them a second to realize exactly who they were looking at standing in their doorway, and a state of shock seemed to come over their faces.
Robby and his little brother, Michael, 3, quickly ran to put on their camouflage outfits so they could match their dad, who was still sporting his National Guard uniform. More pictures and plenty of hugs followed, as the Masons properly welcomed back their surprise soldier.
The Masons were just one example of the many joyful 833rd Company homecoming stories from the weekend. Getting to come home just before the holiday season was surely the best gift the soldiers and their families could ask for. Welcome home, 833 Engineer Company, and thank you for helping to keep us all safe.
— To see reporter Josh Vardaman's Twitter feed, go to @CourierJosh