For many military personnel, deployment is a fact of life, but often it is the return home that justifies all the sacrifices. During the deployment, Senior Sgt. Julie Mauldin, crew chief of the 432nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, worked with a local news channel to plan a surprise for her family at the Shark Reef Aquarium in Mandalay Bay. She suggested that this was the perfect place, since the family often goes there, and the children do not expect anything more than a regular visit.
“We have an annual membership, so we go to the aquarium all the time,” Mauldin said. “Kids will love it.” Mauldin, who had returned home two days earlier, described how difficult it was to keep the secret. “It was hard because I was so close to home and I can’t tell anyone that I’m here. I just want to call and tell my daughters that I’m here, but I can’t just yet,” she said.
Mauldin came up with the idea to surprise her family even before she went on a business trip. Seeing other military personnel returning home in a special way prompted her to consider giving her husband, two daughters and son a similar surprise.