HUBER HEIGHTS — MSgt Aaron Arneson, who has been in the U.S. Air Force for 18 years, returned from a seven-month deployment in Kuwait Wednesday and with help from his wife, Molly, surprised his children Hailey, age 10, and Lincoln, age 6, at the The Y at the Heights.
The children, who attend Charles Huber Elementary School, were brought to the YMCA by by a friend of the Arnesons to play. When they walked into the gym, Lincoln worked his way down to the far basketball hoop to dribble where his dad was shooting baskets, before Lincoln spotted his father. Basketball in hand, Lincoln smiled as he realized his father was on the same court. Aaron, beaming with anticipation for this moment, knelt down to greet his son.
Hailey then approached her father and clung to him in a long hug.
Prior to the arrival of the children, Aaron said he was “ecstatic” to be home after being gone for seven months. He cited the smell of fresh cut grass and the rain.
“I sure missed the family a lot,” said Aaron. “But Skyping every week, that helps and then the news and letters. That always helps a lot.”
The first big moment of the day occurred when MSgt Arneson was picked up at the airport before noon when he was able to hold her.
“It was quite a moment there,” he said. ‘It was a lot of rehearsing in my head prior to that—I got it right!”
Aaron had an idea that he would be coming home a bit earlier than expected.
“It turns out that I’m about a week early, so the kids are believing that I’m coming next week,” said Arneson. “They have no idea that I’m here just yet.”
He said the YMCA would be the perfect location for the surprise “because they won’t have a clue.” The Arnesons have resided in Huber for almost four years and have been going there two to four days a week since. Their children participate in the “Kid Fit Running Club” and have also taken swim and gymnastics lessons there.
“Being at the Y in the evenings has helped pass the time during these past seven months,” said Molly. “Plus we raise service puppies for 4 Paws for Ability, so we take our pups there to socialize with everyone.”
Aaron said he was anticipating “the joy of their faces when they see me and realize it’s dad, come home.”
“That’s the thing I’m probably going to keep in the back of my mind for a long time,” he said.
Over the next several weeks, Aaron said he is looking forward to “getting to know the family again” and getting back into “normal life.”
As Aaron held both children in his arms, they were in no hurry to get down. Laughter and hugs abounded on Wednesday and no doubt, the family is looking forward to more of that in the upcoming weeks.Greg Smart may be reached at 937-236-4990, ext. 2542 or on Twitter @HH_Courier.com