MERIDEN, Conn. — An army soldier home for the holidays surprised her mother and grandmother with her return to the states in Meriden Thanksgiving morning.
Shanice Smith is a U.S. Army IT Specialist and had just returned from Kuwait. After being away for two years, she wanted to surprise her grandmother and her mother with her return on Thanksgiving.
The first stop was to Grandma's house, greeting her at her front door with balloons.
"I am proud, I am happy, I am blessed," said Doreen Esson, Smith's grandmother.
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Carol Gordon was working the ticket booth at the Maloney and Platt high school football game in Meriden when she was shocked and ecstatic to see her daughter one week sooner than expected.
"I was nervous," Smith said. "This is the first time I've felt very emotional, like, I haven't seen none of my family in two years."
The moment Gordon saw Smith, she screamed with excitement and jumped up and down with her hands in the air, and then got a big hug from her daughter.
"Oh, it was just a surprise, she got me real well," Gordon said.
She had thought her daughter was staying in Kuwait for Thanksgiving. "I kept asking 'when are you coming home?'"
Prior to the reunion, Smith had sent Gordon a message wishing her a Happy Thanksgiving from the Kuwait cafeteria, but it was all part of a bigger plan.
Smith's aunt, Yvonne Bailey-Wright, was one of the only family members who knew Smith would be home early and helped her plan the surprise reunions. They were inspired by another Army soldier who posted a video of them surprising their family members after returning from active duty.
"We are always doing surprises. One like this -- no," Bailey-Wright said, "but we have always done surprises in the family."
Smith graduated from Maloney in 2019 and has since been on active duty, starting off in basic training and ending up in Kuwait.
She will be home with her family for 42 days and then will go back on duty in Fort Drum, N.Y.
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