A third-grade student at Broadview Elementary School in Oak Harbor got an early present from Santa Thursday morning.
When Nathan Dixon, 9, brought the attendance sheet into the office for his teacher, he had no idea his mom, Navy Logistics Specialist 1st Class Pilar Arteaga, would be there to surprise him.
“Mommy!” he cried as she crept up behind him, drawing him into a close embrace and rocking him back and forth.
“You have gotten taller,” Arteaga told him between pressing kisses on his forehead.
Arteaga is part of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 103, based at Naval Air Station Oceana, Va., which has been deployed on the USS Eisenhower (CVN-69) for the past six months. Originally scheduled for a nine-month deployment, plans were changed and the ship returned to port in Norfolk, Va. earlier this week.
Nathan wasn’t expecting to see his mom again until March, but Arteaga was able to take advantage of the change in the Eisenhower’s schedule and returned Wednesday to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island with Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 140.
Arteaga is a single parent who must make arrangements for Nathan’s care while she is deployed. Nathan’s guardians, Mike and Judi Consolver, moved to Oak Harbor six months ago, following Mike’s retirement from the Navy. Not only has Nathan had to adjust to staying with a new family (even though he knows them well), but to a new school as well, all without his mom.
Consolver said Nathan has done well, considering.
“He’s a good kid, but you can tell it’s been hard on him,” Consolver said. “He’s been missing his mom, this week in particular.”
“Things like this make you really appreciate the bonds between parents and children,” said Principal Joyce Swanson. “And it helps you realize what families miss when a parent is deployed.”
Over half the students at Broadview are connected to the Navy. The school tries to do different things throughout the year to help celebrate and recognize those connections, Swanson said.
In the meantime, at least one Broadview student is happy with his early gift.
“It’s an awesome surprise,” Nathan said.
“You get me for the next two weeks,” she told him. “I’ve missed you so, so much!”
Before she deployed, Arteaga said she and Nathan celebrated all the special occasions she was going to miss at one time. Now, however, due to the change in the schedule, the Eisenhower will deploy again in February for another six months.
“This was supposed to be my last deployment,” she said. “Just one more now.”
While she may be a little disappointed she’ll have to go to sea for another six months, Arteaga said her Christmas surprise was everything she’d hoped for.
“Most definitely — and then some,” she said.