Surprise! Los Banos mom home from war

cpride@losbanosenterprise.comMay 26, 2013 

— It began like any other Thursday afternoon in Mrs. Valadao's second-grade class at Westside Union Elementary School in Los Banos.

The students had just returned from recess; some of them were at the table working on art projects while others practiced their reading as they sat on multicolored floor mats.

For Annalysia Masso, the day couldn't go by fast enough. She's celebrating her eighth birthday on Memorial Day and she was told her mother was coming home from deployment to Afghanistan today.

As her classmates stopped talking and stared toward the door, Annalysia turned.

"Mommy!" she yelled.

U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Michele Masso was home. Mother and daughter embraced as Valadao led the students in a simultaneous "Welcome Home" greeting.

Masso had been away on a five-month deployment to Afghanistan, where she provided medical attention to the sick and wounded. Masso said she had a very simple message for her daughter during their hug.

"I told her that I missed her," Masso said. "This is my second deployment since she's been born; the first one, she was little. This one was hard for both of us."

Masso said the idea to surprise her daughter belonged to her husband, Miguel Masso. He said it was something he just thought of because his daughter is close with her classmates.

"Why not do it in front of her peers? She can show them what her mom does for a living," Miguel Masso said.

Both of Annalysia's parents volunteer in the classroom. Her father was visiting with the students as her mother was on her way to campus.

A few of the 7- and 8-year-olds came up to Michele Masso and hugged her legs, showing their happiness about her being home.

Valadao was also glad Michele Masso had returned.

"I'm excited because she helped so much in the classroom. When she left it was emotional for me because she was in here all the time," Valadao said. "This was a wonderful thing that she's coming home."

Miguel Masso, who works as a police officer in Oakland, said there were times in the past five months when it was difficult being a single father.

"You do whatever you have to do to be there for your child," Miguel Masso said. "It's been a little bit difficult working full time. It's not her first deployment, (but) hopefully we don't have to do this again."

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