NEW BERLIN -- The holiday season means gathering with family and loved ones, celebrating and making memories. For military families, the holidays can be a painful reminder their loved one will not be coming home. However, one military mom made it home just in time for Christmas, and FOX6's Chip Brewster played a part in surprising her family!
Cheryl Stelter is a 20-year veteran and divorced mother of two. She had been deployed since June.
Before her deployment, Stelter had to make sure everything was taken care of for her two children while she was away.
"I had to make sure school was all in order, their doctor and dentist appointments were in line," Stelter said.
Additionally, Stelter had to line up who would watch the children, and when.
Stelter is a Senior Master Sergeant with the 128th Air Refueling Wing in Milwaukee. She has been overseas doing survey work as a civil engineer. She says while she was helping to change lives overseas, she was missing the lives of her two boys, John and Joshua.
"I missed his first year of playing football. He transferred to a different school for middle school. I missed that. I missed both of their birthdays," Stelter said.
Stelter also missed the 4th of July, Halloween and Thanksgiving, and for a time, it seemed Christmas would also be missed.
"This would be the first year she wouldn't have been at Christmas with us, and Christmas is a special holiday," Joshua Stelter said.
With a little help from FOX6 News, the 10-year-old and 12-year-old boys had no idea their mom was coming home!
Stelter's long-time boyfriend and former 128th Airman B. Shane Morris concocted a plan to surprise the boys. He began by getting them into the same room at Ronald Reagan Elementary School.
"On the car ride over, I asked Shane if he knew when mom was coming home," John Stelter said.
"I told him 'John, I don't know when she's coming in. I just don't know,' and the subject stopped," B. Shane Morris said.
"She said she would get home before Christmas or in the holidays, and we're hoping that she will," John Stelter said.
The boys just thought they were being interviewed by FOX6's Chip Brewster about what it's like to have their mom gone.
Then, without any warning, mom came home!
After six months apart and many memories missed, the family was reunited.
"When she came in I was like, I was stunned really!" John Stelter said.
"As soon as I saw her, I just wanted to run up to her and hug her," Joshua Stelter said.
Stelter's father also served in the 128th. She says she is not sure whether she'll retire from the military, however, she says she hopes one if not both of her sons choose to serve as well.