Soldier's Return a Sweet Surprise for St. Damian First-Grader
St. Damian first-grader Miranda Gutierrez had an extra-special Valentine's Day, when her father Brian returned home from a six-month deployment and surprised her during her class celebration.
Six months' worth of bedtime stories and almost an entire school grade later, 6-year-old Miranda Gutierrez received the best valentine she could have imagined.
Her father, U.S. Army Sgt. Brian Gutierrez wrapped his arms around her for the first time in six months. He scooped her up off the ground and squeezed tight in front of her classmates at St. Damian.
Gutierrez, who wasn't due home until summer, returned last week. He and wife Maritza schemed to pull off the Valentine's Day reveal.
"I'm happy alright!" Miranda told reporters after the surprise.
Gutierrez, a Military Police officer, said his mission changed, allowing his early return. His tour was previously expected to end after the school year.
“I’m glad I’m home early,” he said before the surprise. “I thought I would miss the whole first grade.”
Miranda's teacher Cindy Rak was moved by the family moment, and relieved for the 6-year-old.
"She would miss dad, so to have him come in ... This will change her world," Rak said.
His wife is glad he's back, if only because of their daughter's growing concern for his safe return.
"It was hard to explain to her," Maritza said. "She would always ask, 'why my dad?'
She had to learn what sacrifice means."
The family resides in Chicago’s McKinley Park community. Gutierrez plans to return to his work as a police officer in Burr Ridge.