Sgt. Cheryll Leiser’s children knew that she was returning this week from a year-long deployment to Kuwait. But they were not expecting her to come straight to their school and surprise them.
As Citronelle Police Chief Trey Norris told students at a McDavid-Jones Elementary assembly Wednesday about the sacrifices made every day by local heroes like police officers, firefighters and military servicemen and women, he called Leiser’s third-grade daughter Haley forward. Little did she know that her mom was waiting in the wings to greet her.
Her older brother, fifth-grader Matthew, said he had a feeling something was up, though. “When they held that assembly and started talking about national heroes, I knew what was going on,” Matthew said. “She was coming home today and I was like, eh, yeah. I could tell what was about to happen.”
Their suspicion did not spoil the joyous reunion, however. Leiser, a 13-year veteran of the Mississippi Army National Guard, had been deployed for a year in Kuwait as part of a support battalion supporting Operation Spartan Shield — her first deployment. While she kept in touch with her four children — Matthew, Haley, kindergartener Caleb and a 3-year-old — via Facetime, she said it’s not the same as being with them.
“It’s overwhelming. I’ve missed them so much and it’s hard to see how much they’ve grown while I’ve been gone,” she said. “It’s good to have them in my arms again; I feel like I can breathe.
“Having to leave them was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and then being able to come home and just hold them again – it’s all I’ve wanted to do for the past year.”
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