'MOM!' Military mom surprises her sixth-grade son in sweet reunion at school

After being deployed with the National Guard for ten months, this mom went all out to surprise her son with her homecoming.
by Allison Slater Tate / / Source: TODAY

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After ten months of deployment flying Medevac missions in the Middle East with the Wisconsin National Guard, E5 Sergeant Jen Sabrowsky was excited to come home to her family.

Sabrowsky, 32, hoped to surprise her son Jake, 12, and stepson Jackson Bines-Sabrowsky, 11, at their school when she returned home in late January. When she asked their teachers at McKinley Elementary School in Appleton, Wisconsin, if that would be possible, they suggested something a little more elaborate: Sabrowsky could use the school's jaguar mascot costume to surprise the boys during lunch.

Though her stepson ended up staying home sick that day, Sabrowsky — with the enthusiastic support of McKinley principal Andrea Vinje — entered the lunchroom dressed as the McKinley jaguar and approached Jake. When she removed the mascot head, Jake's genuinely thrilled reaction ("MOM!") proved priceless. The video of the sweet mother-son reunion has since gone viral.

Afterward, Jake had some important questions for his mom. "Jake's very first question to me was asking me whether I was home for good, and his second was to ask if myself or his father were going to make dinner," Sabrowsky told TODAY Parents.

This was Sabrowsky's first deployment with the Wisconsin National Guard. Her husband, Marc — himself a veteran and formerly active duty — was their children's primary caregiver while she was gone. Sabrowsky said that he was the one with the hardest job during her deployment.

"He was Mom and Dad while I was gone, and it was tough on him," Sabrowsky said. "He worked full-time and was going to school as well.

"Too often, the men get overlooked when a woman deploys, or they have to hear about moms being better suited to stay home with the kids, but he was amazing and did everything with a smile and a joyful attitude," she said. "We are blessed."

Wisconsin National Guard Sergeant Jen Sabrowsky said the true heroes during her ten-month deployment were her family, including husband Marc and son Jake, 12, and stepson Jackson, 11, as well as the community who supported them during her absence.
Wisconsin National Guard Sergeant Jen Sabrowsky said the true heroes during her ten-month deployment were her family, including husband Marc and son Jake, 12, and stepson Jackson, 11, as well as the community who supported them during her absence.Jen Sabrowsky

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Because of the way the National Guard rotates, Sabrowsky should be home now for at least a few years, barring unforeseen circumstances. She is grateful, she said, for the people who made her absence okay for her family: both her employer and her husband's, her children's elementary school, and everyone else in their community who helped them make it work.

"I did not feel like I personally did anything extraordinary while being deployed. I did maintenance on helicopters when it was needed, and I tried to set a good example for my sons by being a good leader and remaining positive when I could interact with them," said Sabrowsky.

"The true heroes, in my opinion, are the ones who did everything from sending care packages, to buying Christmas gifts for the boys, to allowing my husband to work from home as needed," she said. "Every person, company and group did so much more than I will ever be able to repay. If nothing else comes from this, I just hope they have the opportunity to know how thankful I am. As a wife, a mother and soldier, these people will remain near and dear to me."

Her children were also very much a part of her service to her country, she said. "My boys were understanding and supportive beyond their years and are very proud to be 'Army brats,'" Sabrowsky said. "I hope this shows that the military is not simply a job, it truly is a life style and one the entire family commits to."

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