Diego Sanchez, a third grader at Purple Heart Elementary, was quietly reading in his class at Purple Heart Elementary when he received a sweet surprise.
Standing right in front of him with his arms wide open was Diego’s dad, Emmanuel Sanchez, a Chief Warrant Officer 2 in the Army, who was finally home after being deployed for nine months in the Middle East.
Emmanuel, 32, had to call out his son a few times because the boy seemed stunned to see his father right in front of him. His little 5-year-old sister, Nyah, was wrapped around her dad’s leg with no chance of letting him go.
The boy finally stood up, hugged his dad and cried.
“Happy,” was all Diego could say to those who asked what he was feeling.
“I am so proud of Diego,” said Emmanuel Sanchez, an Apache helicopter pilot with the 501st Aviation Brigade who has been deployed five times. “He has been strong and really helped the family by taking care of his sister and mother. He did a good job acting like the man of the house.”
The deployment was tough, especially for Diego, said Yaira Sanchez, Emmanuel’s wife. She and her children don’t have family here.
“He would cry sometimes,” said Yaira Sanchez. “It hasn’t been easy. But now we are all back together.”
The first thing Emmanuel said he would do when the family gets home is play video games with Diego. As for Nyah, “well I guess I will be playing Barbies with her,” he said.
Diego’s third grade WIN Academy teacher, Lissete Contreras, who helped set up the surprise, said the little boy talked about this dad all the time. He is his hero.
“I just couldn’t imagine being away from my kid for that long. He is a hero,” Contreras said. “This is so special and I am glad I was able to be a part of it.”
Jennifer Parker, principal at Purple Heart, said the surprise homecoming was a first for her.
“To be able to witness it and then realize the sacrifices these families are making, gets you choked up,” she said. “We are so thankful for their service.”
Author: Socorro ISD