JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii --
It’s been 10 years since my immediate family has spent a holiday together and with the help of Operation Ride Home program, I was able to see my family for Thanksgiving. Needless to say, I was thrilled at the opportunity to see my family for the holiday season. I immediately began planning how I would surprise them. The only other person that knew I would be coming was my brother Isaac, who was traveling from San Diego, California.
We both arrived at Austin–Bergstrom International Airport Nov. 20. Isaac and I commuted one hour to my parents’ house in Killeen, Texas. After we arrived, we decided he would drop me off a block away from our parents’ home, and I would knock on the door and surprise them. As I walked down the block of my parents new neighborhood for the first time. I felt a sense of excitement hearing the cheers of my family as my brother entered their home. When I reached their garage I could hear my family laughing and talking to my brother. As I approached and knocked on the front door the house fell silent. I could hear my mother say who is that? As the door opened a wave of joy came over me seeing the look of sheer disbelief on my mother's face as I stood in her doorway made the journey from Hawaii worth it.
I entered my parents’ home and was greeted by smiles from my father Jerry, my sister Nicole, and my oldest brother Jerry Jr. who all didn’t think I would be able to make it this year. As the thrill of seeing everyone in one place subsided, we began to talk about our lives, how much we had changed in the time we had been away from each other. We even reminisced about memories we shared years ago. The days that followed until Thanksgiving were filled with laughing, joking and conversing about life and our plans for the future. Isaac later told me a secret to me that no one else could know until the time was right. He also said our mother would get an important phone call on Thanksgiving Day. When I initially heard the news I couldn’t believe it, and I was thoroughly surprised.
On Thanksgiving Day we all ended up at Nicole’s house. As we huddled around the television cheering for the Chicago Bears, the smell of fried turkey consumed the air. In that moment, I realized that this scene would stay with me as one of my most cherished memories. After we all finished eating, my mother received a phone call just as my brother said. To her surprise it was her daughter in-law calling to share the news of her pregnancy. My mother could hardly control her excitement upon hearing the news. Later that day, she revealed that this was the best Thanksgiving she had in years.
Overall, my trip to Killeen, to see my family for Thanksgiving was an experience I will never forget for a lot of reasons. I was appreciative for the opportunity to see loved ones after such a long time and felt invigorating to know they are doing well. Without the help of the Operation Ride Home program the memories I made with my family this year wouldn’t have been possible. As the saying goes, family is like branches of a tree we all grow in different directions, yet our roots remain the same.