Military dad surprises sons at school after year-long pandemic deployment


Two Illinois brothers got a heartwarming surprise when they found their military father waiting for them outside their elementary school after he had been away for a year on deployment. 

Sgt. James Munzing of the Illinois National Guard deployed to Djibouti in East Africa before the coronavirus pandemic started. The family kept in touch through video calls and messaging, but the boys had a lot to deal with between their father going away and school changing to remote learning, isolating them from their friends, according to a report.

“It was really hard for all of us to adjust and find a new routine,” Jessica Munzing, their mother, told NBC 5 Chicago. “It’s been really, really rough. Luckily now we have technology.” 

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Munzing was set to return home in a few weeks, but he managed to return earlier than planned. He worked together with his wife and teachers at Walden Elementary School, where his boys attend, to surprise them, NBC 5 reported.

When their teachers pulled them out of class last week, Kevin and Shawn thought their mom was taking them home: They were “thinking happiness” when they saw, instead, that their dad was waiting for them. 

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“We were more than excited to join in on this,” Jody Oshira, who teaches Shawn’s fourth-grade class, told NBC 5. “I’m so happy. I’ve seen these sorts of things before. Something I definitely won’t forget.” 

The boys’ second- and fourth-grade classmates were nearby, waving flags and cheering. 

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Shawn told NBC 5 he looks forward to Legos, Smash Bros and “going to place” with his dad now that he’s home. 

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