When her girls walked into Morenci’s Pizza Box for lunch Friday, Loni told them to go on over to the adjoining room and get a seat.
When they walked around the corner, something wasn’t quite right, because there stood their father, Thomas Hill, in uniform. The girls—Andrea, Samantha, Sabrina, Mia and Maisy—knew he was coming home on leave from the Army for the holidays, but their mother said it was happening on Tuesday, after Christmas.
The little white lie made for a special early Christmas present.
“I missed you so much,” said one of the stunned twins—Andy and Sammy—as they moved in for a hug.
“I’ve missed you, too,” Tom answered.
Visits home are rare for Sergeant First Class Hill. At noon Friday, he had just completed a long 18-hour bus ride from Camp Shelby, Miss. For most of December he’s been training at Ft. Irwin, Calif., in preparation for deployment to Afghanistan. He expects to spend about nine months in the country.
Hill started his military career as a Marine and spent four years with the corps. He joined the Army National Guard in 2000 and has served in Sinai, Egypt, and in Iraq.
The surprise visit with his family was good for him, too, because it took his mind off something that also happened on a Dec. 23. That was the day in 2006 that three members of his company plus an interpreter died in a blast from an improvised explosive device in the unfriendly city of Baghdad. Two other soldiers in his company died in November that year.
SFC Hill has his family for a few days to push away those dark memories before he heads back to work.
Loni was pleased that she pulled it off, saying that she almost spilled the beans more than once.
“You said it was going to be Tuesday,” said one of the girls.
“I told you I had to pick up a present this morning,” Loni said