Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

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Jennifer Rodriguez holds Josef as he meets her at the door.

Military mother’s surprise Christmas homecoming

Two young boys were overwhelmed when their Christmas wishes were granted early at the Choctaw Nation Head Start and Daycare in Durant. Their mother, Army 1st Lt. Jennifer Rodriguez, who has been deployed overseas since early 2012, surprised them during the center’s annual children’s Christmas program on Dec. 20.

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“I feel like my heart is going to jump out of my chest,” said Jennifer as she eagerly awaited the time when she could reveal herself to the boys.

As the program came to an end, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” began to play and Jennifer walked through the door. Astonished, Jason, 6, and Josef, 4, almost seemed to not believe their eyes as they first gazed upon their mom.

As the realization of who had arrived took hold, the boys jumped from their positions among the children. Their faces displaying a mix of disbelief and excitement, they ran to their mother in the midst of a great applause by those in attendance.

The applause was loud and the hugs were long as shear joy of the reunion reminded the audience of how special the bond is between mother and child.

Josef leapt into his mother’s arms and the two became inseparable. When asked what he was going to do with mommy now that she is back, his response was simply, “Gonna give her hugs.”

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Having their mother home was atop their Christmas list this year, making this a Christmas wish come true for both boys.

Jennifer is stationed in New York, and will travel back to the Northeast with her boys near the end of the month, but not before spending Christmas with them and family in Oklahoma. The family has many fun events scheduled during this time, including taking the boys to a Dallas Cowboys game.

Josef and Jason had been staying with their grandmother, Linda Gothard, in Durant since Jennifer left for duty in February. “I’m going to miss my boys, but I’m glad she is home,” stated Gothard, as she spoke about Josef and Jason going home with their mom.

The reunion on Thursday night was not only the first time to see her children since she had returned, but also her entire family. When she arrived at the program many friends and family greeted her as she attempted to contain her excitement before seeing her children.

After Jennifer was revealed, hugs, tears and affection surrounded her and the boys from family and friends alike. As the crowd cleared, Josef and Jason shared stories with their mother, telling her all the stories of how they missed her and their plans now that she has returned. Every onlooker could clearly see the joy in Jennifer’s face as she listened and held her little boys.

The 28-year-old finance officer, who was stationed in Bagram, Afghanistan, during her deployment, had the idea of surprising her children for some time. She arrived back in the United States on Dec. 9, but had been at a demobilization site out-processing until her big debut. She had to be careful about her location when speaking to the boys over Skype, as to not clue them in on the pending Christmas surprise.

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Jennifer made plans to surprise them during a class period, but Donna Holder, director of the Choctaw Nation Day Care, suggested that she up the excitement and make it the showcase of the night at the Christmas program. The surprise was a success and everyone in attendance was able to witness a Christmas wish come true.

Check out the video at KTEN or KXII’s websites by clicking the station name.