Air Force Capt. returns home, surprises kids at Collier school

Sometimes, Santa’s best gifts don’t come in his sleigh.

Gates Gleason shook with excitement as she laid eyes on her mom Wednesday for the first time in six months. Air Force Capt. Jeni Gleason walked into Gates’ second-grade classroom at Osceola Elementary School to surprise her.

Everyone was in on the encounter except Gates and her classmates, who were simply told “something special” was in store.

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In walked Capt. Gleason. Gates gasped and dropped the pencil in her hand.

“Mommy!” she said.

“Come give me hugs,” Capt. Gleason said.

That’s just what Gates did.

The reunion brought tears to the eyes of everyone in the room, Gates included. But those tears soon turned to happy hops as she and her mother went together to surprise Gates’ brother, Ronan, who goes to kindergarten at the same school.

When they walked in the room, Ronan wasted no time bounding toward his mom and hugging her.

“My heart was beating like crazy,” Capt. Gleason said. “I knew I was gonna cry.”

It was an arduous journey for Capt. Gleason, who didn’t arrive in Southwest Florida until midnight because her flight was delayed. But the family is finally back together again.

And as Gates said, “It’s like she never was gone.”

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Reporter:Olivia Mancino