It seemed like an ordinary assembly at Midway Middle School in Hewitt, Texas. On the afternoon of November 13, the school was apparently embarking on a new food drive program, and they wanted to rally some school spirit to kick it off.
A teacher made a speech to the crowd, backed by the cheerleading squad, the school’s mascot the Midway Panther, and a student representative, 12-year-old JaiceyBelle Hunter.
The teacher was giving a speech about how her students worked hard to give back to their community. But then, she turned to the mascot.
“I’ve heard that the Midway Panther has been involved in a lot of service as well, and doing things out in the community and other places,” the teacher said about the mute panther.
She then asked if the mascot had any “words of wisdom” on how to give back.
But the panther didn’t reply—it surprised everyone by simply taking off its mascot head…
…and revealing who was in the costume the whole time.
It was Sgt. Lacey Poltoratskiy, JaiceyBelle’s mother, surprising her after returning from her tour!
Sgt. Poltoratskiy had spent the last nine months in Kuwait, away from her family. She was scheduled to arrive home closer to Thanksgiving, but when she got back earlier than expected, she couldn’t pass the opportunity to give her daughter an unforgettable surprise.
“JaiceyBelle likes the flair and the drama,” she told ABC News. “I was excited because I knew the big surprise would resonate well.”
She managed to pull off the surprise—but just barely held back her emotion before the reveal.
“I was already crying in the mask.”
JaiceyBelle immediately broke down when she saw her mother, sharing what she calls her mother’s “ugly cries.”
“This is my mother, and she’s here,” JaiceyBelle told the Waco Tribune-Herald. “And now you’ve seen me cry like a small, little child.”
The Panther is messing with MMS 7th grader JaiceyBelle… and she has no idea the surprise waiting for her underneath that mascot mask!
Posted by Midway ISD on Monday, November 13, 2017
But that wasn’t the only surprise Sgt. Poltoratskiy made that day.
Poltoratskiy has another child, 5-year-old Daxton, and earlier in the morning she decided to surprise him in his Hewitt Elementary School classroom. The kindergarteners were told that they would have a special guest arriving to read to them.
Of course, the surprise guest was Poltoratskiy, who showed up to the class in her military uniform.
The whole class was excited to see “a soldier” walk in to read to them—but no one was more excited than Daxton, who immediately jumped up to go hug his mother.
Surprising her son in the classroom was a special moment for Poltoratskiy, who was doing her best to stay a part of her son’s learning.
“Daxton’s teacher, she would send me videos and pictures and updates, so I got to keep up with the kids,” she told the Waco Tribune-Herald. “She would film him reading, because he learned to read while I was gone, so I still got to be part of that.”
Just covered a couple heartwarming moments in Midway ISD.Today, Sgt. Lacey Poltoratskiy surprised her son Daxton Hunter, 5, and her daughter JaiceyBelle Hunter, 12, at school after returning from a nine-month tour in Kuwait. Her children expected her a few days later, so this came as a complete shock, they said. Below is Daxton's surprise at Hewitt Elementary this morning. He thought he was having a guest speaker coming to read to his class (I apologize for the shaking, it became a little emotional).
Posted by Shelly Conlon – The Waco Tribune-Herald on Monday, November 13, 2017
The surprises provided a heartwarming homecoming after a long and often difficult time apart.
“It was tough the last few weeks,” Poltoratskiy told The Waco Tribune-Herald.
“The kids were missing me, and I was missing them.”
Now she’s happy to be home, just in time for the holiday. “My sisters have already started the group chat about Thanksgiving dinner and decided which dish I’d be making. I didn’t remind them I have nothing in my fridge,” she joked to ABC News.
But one thing’s for sure: she’s going to spend some quality time with her kids, with weeks full of jigsaw puzzles, college football games, and living room sleepovers.