EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 8, 2013

Local soldier returns home and surprises mother

By Sara Brown

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When teacher assistant Tracey Hall walked into Kittredge Elementary School’s auditorium, she thought she was just going to be telling students about a support the troops campaign the school was going to begin.

She had no idea she was going to see her son, for the first time in more than a year.

Hall explained to the students why sending care packages to the troops overseas is important. She shared that her son was in the military, and that’s when her son unexpectedly walked through the doors — much to the shock and delight of Hall.

“Oh my God,” Hall cried as she fell to the floor. After giving him a big hug, she turned to the students and said, “This is my baby.”

Her baby, Corey Hall, is a member of the Army Special Forces, currently stationed at Fort Bliss in Texas. He spent a year in Afghanistan and this December will be returning to the war zone.

“I knew when I found out I was going back to Afghanistan that I had to go back home to spend time with my family,” Corey Hall said.

So when he discovered he had two weeks off, he arranged to go home and started planning this surprise for his mom.

“It took us about a month to plan it,” Tracey’s husband Gary Hall said. “We planned it with principal Richard Cushing and only a few teachers knew it was happening.”

Cushing said he was happy to oblige the Halls.

“Everybody knows (Tracey) and she means so much to this community. We are so thankful for her,” he said.

Corey Hall said he knew he wanted the big surprise to happen at Kittredge, which is where he attended elementary school.

“A solider coming home to surprise his mom at his local hometown school — it’s a Kodak moment,” he joked.

There were, however, some close calls with the surprise. It was almost ruined moments before the big reveal.

“We were standing in the stairwell hiding and at one point she started walking towards it,” Corey Hall said.

“We thought it was blown right there,” Gary Hall added.

However, Tracey Hall said she was completely surprised.

“I’m shocked,” she said. “I never saw this coming.”

Tracey Hall believed it would be another year until she saw her son again.

“Today is going to be an emotional day. It’s like an early Christmas,” she said.

She explained having a son in the military can be emotionally draining at times.

“It can be tough missing him so much ,but you just have to push through it,” she said.

One way she pushes through it is by sending care packages to troops overseas. She also arranged a service project for the elementary school, in which students send candy and thoughtful notes of encouragement to the troops. Kittredge plans on doing a similar project this year.

“They’re always soldiers over there even if it’s not my son,” she told the students.

Kittredge allowed Tracey Hall to have rest of the day off to spend time with her family.

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