1010 WINS -- U.S. Army Specialist Doug George has been in the U.S. National Guard since 2011. He and his wife Amber have two young children. Due to his job, his kids understand that their dad leaves for the Army, sometimes just for a weekend, sometimes longer.
In the summer of 2016, the family got word that Doug's unit would be traveling overseas to Kuwait by the year's end for a nine-month deployment.
Since then, their daughter has graduated first grade.
Doug's wife Amber told 1010 WINS that her daughter has been understanding. "It's sad, and hard but the army needs my daddy right now. Every one needs a hero, and that's my daddy," Amber quoted her daughter. Their son was only 3 when he left and he too has reached milestones. He talks more, and will even start Pre-K soon.
This time, when Doug returned home, he and his wife had something in mind to surprise the kids. Amber contacted Jordan Patch of Animal Adventures Park near Binghamton, NY to set up a surprise family reunion.
When choosing the location for the emotional homecoming, Amber said, "My kids have gone to that park every summer since they opened. It has been really awesome watching the park expand as my kids have grown up."
She continued, "I also chose the park because to me, that park means a lot. The entire environment is positive. Jordan genuinely cares for each of his animals and it shows. Every time Doug has been away in the summer, we have gone to Animal Adventure for some happy memories. It didn't matter if he was gone for the weekend, or an entire month, or year. The kids always found their smiles at Animal Adventure."
Amber told 1010 WINS that the park was integral in planning the surprise. She said they even let him hide in the giraffe barn before the park opened.
"It was absolutely amazing. The entire day was all thought up by Jordan. Words can not express how truly thankful we are for everything he did."
The special day was an important reminder to Amber that her kids are tough.
"I can honestly say my kids are stronger than I am," Doug tells 1010 WINS. "Their resiliency is something unmeasurable. Don't get me wrong, there have been many tears I have wiped away. But the smiles from Sunday were totally worth it."
Watch the full video below.
Here's an adorable little side note: Harpurville, NY's Animal Adventure Park is also the very same zoo where the birth of April the Giraffe took place live on camera, capturing the hearts of animal lovers worldwide.
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