Military deployments can be emotionally tough, as they separate you from your home and loved ones for months at a time. When master sergeant Shania Porter returned to the U.S. Air Force, it was her fifth deployment, so she knew what she was getting into.
But there was something different this time around that made the whole thing more difficult:
It was her first deployment away from her two sons, 5-year-old Bryce and 4-year-old Blake.
“To leave your kids who are used to mommy taking care, fixing meals and stuff like that, it’s completely different to not wake up and hear their voice,” she told ABC 15.
Over a seven-month leave, Porter has been able to keep in touch with her sons through video chat, but has been forced to miss events like graduations and first days of school.
So when she finally returned home, she knew she couldn’t wait any longer and decided to make it an unforgettable reunion:
She surprised both her unsuspecting kids at school.
First stop was her younger son’s preschool. The class and teacher were in on the surprise, according to ABC 15, but Blake had no idea.
So imagine his surprise when he heard a familiar voice coming over the school’s PA system:
“Attention Pre-K 1,” Porter said. “I have a special announcement for a little boy that I flew so many miles to see and to tell him how much I love him.”
Blake didn’t seem to fully understand what was happening—until his mother ran down the hall to his class and surprised him. Blake excitedly hugged his mother.
Needless to say, it was an emotional reunion for Porter:
“When I initially saw [his] face, instantly my face kind of swelled up and I got super emotional,” Porter recalled to Inside Edition. “It was like a flashback of memories, putting [him] to bed and taking [him] to school.”
School officials were also taken in by the moment. “To just see them together was incredible,” school franchise owner Karen Verlardi told ABC News.
Next stop was to surprise Bryce—and Porter had a little bit of a prank in store.
Porter waited outside Bryce’s school and set up a FaceTime call with him. She disguised the location to make it seem like she was still deployed.
It was perfect timing—Bryce had apparently just been crying, missing his mom.
When his mom asks, “What if I told you you didn’t have to cry anymore?” he suddenly recognizes her location, and joyfully runs to meet her.
The school’s principal, Janis Ramirez, helped make the moment happen by lending Bryce her phone for the video call.
“To see him reunite with his mother who I know he just loves, it was just a memorable moment that we were happy to be apart of,” Ramirez told ABC News.
Porter couldn’t have been more excited to be reunited with her sons—but was originally concerned they wouldn’t return the enthusiasm:
“Initially, it was pretty scary because I didn’t know how receptive they were going to be,” she told Inside Edition. “They’ve been so used to their dad and grandmother at this time so I was a little nervous if they were going to be as excited as I wanted them to be.”
But her boys’ tearful embrace has put any of those fears to rest.
“It was the best feeling ever,” Porter told ABC News.
“It was the completion to know it was over and I was home. That was the feeling of home for me.”
Porter will be going back for another deployment in September. But for now, she’s spending as much time with her kids as possible, including plenty of movies and a trip to Disneyland—making up for a little lost time.
“You think that 6 or 7 months isn’t a lot of time but they grow so fast,” she told Inside Edition.