Navy sailor and mom of 2 from Bradenton comes home for holidays - WFLA News Channel 8

Navy sailor and mom of 2 from Bradenton comes home for holidays

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Rochelle Andrews and her children Rochelle Andrews and her children
BRADENTON, FL (WFLA) -

A Bradenton family is going to have a very special Thanksgiving this year.

A local mom has been deployed for five months, and rarely gets to go home to see her children.

But on Friday she surprised them at school.

The kids at Ballard Elementary have been through this drill before.

They do this once a month- gathering around the flagpole with small flags in hand.

It's a special ceremony the school has been hosting this since September 11th.

It's a moment for the whole school to join as one and honor our nation's heroes.

But for 8-year-old Antonio Andrews and his 7-year-old sister Serenity, this day is a little different. They just don't know it yet.

Principal Wendy Mungillo said to the group, “You guys are probably wondering- what's with all the cameras?"

She told everyone the press was there to cover their wonderful little ceremony.

But the truth is, for the past five months, Antonio and his sister have been living with grandma. Their mom is in the navy and has been serving on a ship in San Diego.

And they certainly didn't see this coming.

Mungillo said, ”Please welcome Rochelle Andrews. Come on out Ms. Andrews!"

Mom walked out in a blue Navy uniform!

Antonio and Serenity were caught off guard for a moment, probably wondering is that really her? Can I run up to her?

 Then off they went-  into her arms with tears flowing.

There was probably so much to share, so much to catch up on, but sometimes words are not necessary.

Rochelle Andrews had been gone for a bit.

"Five months is a long time, for me,” she said.

Andrews is an air traffic controller aboard the USS Essex in San Diego. Over the past couple of years, work has kept her away for long periods of time.

Andrews said, "I'm stopped. I'm stopped at the moment that I leave them. I get them back and they're completely different kids most of the time."

She'll be here for 10 days.

The family intents to go to Busch Gardens next week and then share a very happy thanksgiving.

Then she'll be back to the ship. She has two years left on her assignment and she has no clue when she'll be back.

So despite the wonderful interruption, the Flag ceremony went on, and it couldn't be more appropriate. Because along with honoring our nation's heroes, these kids welcomed one home.

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