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Navy mom surprises daughter at Chino school

February 28, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Inside the library at Rhodes Elementary School in Chino, a 9-year-old girl thought it was just a typical Tuesday. But a few doors down, the girl's mother was waiting patiently for a reunion that's been five months in the making.

"She thinks that she is going to get out of school on Thursday, and she thinks that she's going to drive to San Diego and see the ship pull in because that's what happens usually," said mother Toni Debem.

Toni Debem is a Navy counselor assigned to the USS Stennis. She returned to port on Monday and was eager to surprise her young daughter.

"I just miss our one-on-one time, and the family outings and going to the zoo and going to the Sequoias and being able to have those funny, silly moments that I've missed out on," she said.

Then the moment arrived. Toni Debem walked up behind her daughter Nadia, who she hadn't seen since October. There was no disguising the love between mother and daughter and the joy they shared.

The third grader said she had no idea why TV news crews had congregated inside her library.

"My teacher told me that there was going to be cameras, but I thought to do an interview for the school," Nadia Debem said. "I didn't know it was for my mom coming home."

Toni Debem was joined by her husband Michael and 18-month-old son Marc.

"She's an amazing woman, amazing wife, mother. She just goes to the extreme in every role that she plays," said Michael Debem.

Toni Debem knows another deployment awaits, so she will spend the next several weeks surrounded by loved ones.