When U. S. Army Specialist Aliyah Ben-Israel received permission to go home for the holidays, she knew her first order of business had to be a surprise visit to LaRue Elementary School. Ben-Israel's 7-year-old daughter Trystyn is a student there, and had not seen her mother in 15 months.

Students had been informed by teachers that a special rally would be held to kick off the Thanksgiving holiday, but Trystyn wasn't aware that her mother was the special military guest until she made her way through the gym doors. As soon as Trystyn saw her mother, she ran and jumped into her arms. It was an emotional exchange as the two embraced, speaking 'I love you's' and swapping hugs and kisses.

Ben-Israel said this is was a day she will never forget, and what Thanksgiving is all about.

“There is no better feeling than to see your daughter so happy to see you,” Ben-Israel said, noting she has longed for this day for quite some time. “I know Thanksgiving doesn't begin for another week, but Thanksgiving began for me the minute I got my orders and plane ticket.”

She said it has been very difficult being away from her daughter, and she doesn't see how single parents do this on a regular basis.

“The most difficult part about serving is being separated from my kids,” she said. “I don't know how single parents do it, it is a tremendous sacrifice.”

Even though the times of separation has been hard, Ben-Israel said she and Trystyn use FaceTime and Skype a lot.

“I'm thankful for modern-day technology,” she said. “Being able to talk to my daughter over the computer has been great.”

But she added that nothing can ever compare to the face-to-face moments.

While on the campus of LaRue, Ben-Israel talked with the student body and thanked them for being a part of such a special moment.

“This was totally awesome,” she expressed. “I was overwhelmed, and it was awesome to see all of the signs the kids had made for me.”

Several of the students made signs that said “welcome home,” “we miss you,” and “thank you for serving our country.” In addition, Ben-Israel was presented with a dozen red roses.

“I'm truly blessed to be here with my daughter, and to have the support of this school,” she said. “It's a great feeling. I'm so grateful that the whole school got to be a part of all of this.”

To celebrate her homecoming, Ben-Israel, Trystyn and her son will be flying to Maryland to visit family.

“My son wants me to take them to a bounce house,” she said. “I'm going to do that and also we're flying to Maryland, Saturday evening to see family.”

Ben-Israel serves as a surgical technician and assist doctors in providing medical care for soldiers who have been wounded.

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