Tina Haas knew she had a tough job to do; she didn’t realize it would be this tough.
For the better part of two months, the Gilbert mother of two and her husband, Charles — a grade 2 Chief Warrant Officer in the U.S. Army — had been planning his semi-permanent return to the states from yealong tour in Afghanistan.
The difficult part, of course, wasn’t the act of welcoming her husband home.
Rather, it was not telling their daughters — Madison, 12, and Savannah, 15 — that dad was finally going to be here for longer than a couple of weeks.
“It was tough. It was extremely tough,” Tina Haas said. “The kids kept asking questions, ‘Mom, do we know yet when dad’s coming home yet?’
“They knew it was some time this month,” she added. “but they both said (after) they did not have a clue what was going on.”
After two months of planning, that day finally came Wednesday when Charles surprised Madison and her seventh-grade class at Gilbert’s Highland Junior High School. That was a few hours before he showed up at the junior varsity football game at Highland High School, where Savannah, a sophomore, was cheerleading.
“Happiness.” “Surprise.” “Relief.” Those were Savannah’s words after her dad walked into the stadium — the plan, the whole time, unbeknownst to her.
“It’s hard having a parent away in the military and only having one parent there,” she said, explaining why “relief” was one of the first things she thought of. “You have a lot of responsibility and it’s just a lot when you don’t have two parents around.
“It takes some of the pressure off.”
Charles said he was relieved too, but for a different reason. When dealing with military logistics in cases like this, it’s not a given that everything will work out to plan. He knew he wouldn’t make it home in time for Highland’s homecoming festivities last week, but still held out hope to see his daughter cheer on the Hawks at least once this season.
“There were a couple of obstacles we were looking at that could have made this a problem,” Charles said, “but thankfully it all worked out.”
And Savannah, just minutes after the unexpected reunion, didn’t need much time to blurt out the first adventure she planned to drag dad on now that he’s home for a while.
“We’re going to take a bike ride to the coffee shop.”
Brett Fera and Tim Hacker contributed to this report.