Christenberry mascot doubles as father coming home from deployment, surprises kids

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COVER PHOTO_Berry mascot is soldier dad_0523_1558648551062.JPG-727168854.jpg

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – “Berry” the Cardinal, Christenberry Elementary’s School mascot pulled double duty Thursday morning — in the best way possible. 

Students at the Knoxville elementary school thought they were called to an assembly promoting summer reading as a family, when really, Stephen and Sabrina Wooden had no idea they were actually hugging their dad, Sgt. Michael Wooden, for the first time in nearly a year — until it was time for their special surprise. 

“I saw him right off the bat and then I finally saw her,” Wooden said. The family’s embrace on stage was met with a standing ovation by everyone in the room as Wooden’s daughter asked, ”So you were Berry this whole time??” 

“I was wanting to go ahead and take the hood off but it’d be better to wait,” Wooden said. “I think they were still in initial shock and then when it hit them there was, of course, excitement and joy.”

Wooden arrived back home in Knoxville Wednesday night after an 11-month long deployment in Northeast Poland as part of the Army National Guard’s work with Operation Atlantic Resolve… but kept his arrival a secret from the kids in order to surprise them. “Just being home is nice, it’s good to be back home,” Wooden said. “It was hard being gone, of course, social media and pictures and everything it makes a big difference.”

Even that was limited at times to talking on weekends because of the drastic time difference, however, nothing compares to the real thing especially those first moments back in each other’s arms. 

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