The Times West Virginian

Local News

June 27, 2014

Returning soldier-mom surprises kids at daycare: VIDEO AND PHOTOS

FAIRMONT — A brother and sister received a special surprise Thursday after their naptime.

Batina Church, the mother of Gavin and Isabella Church, surprised her children at the LearningLand Daycare & Preschool on Thursday afternoon. Gavin and Isabella were asked why Thursday was such an important day.

Five-year-old Gavin answered that he and his 4-year-old sister were “going to go home” to their home near Ft. Bragg, North Carolina.

The doorbell to the daycare rang and both children looked toward the front door. Church came in the room behind her children and said their names.

Isabella ran to her mother instantly and yelled, “Mommy.”

Gavin stood speechless when he saw his mother. After his brief struggle with shock, Gavin ran to his mother and hugged her.

The children and their mother hugged for a few joyful moments.

Church, a major in the U.S. Army 82nd Sustainment Brigade, said she had missed both children’s birthdays and Christmas Day while stationed overseas in Afghanistan.

Batina’s husband, Christopher Church, was also present.

“The best thing when we pick them up, even on a normal day from day care, as soon as we walk in we see their faces light up. To see that with them after not seeing her for eight months is pretty awesome,” Christopher Church said.

Batina said the children thought they would be picking her up tomorrow at the airport.

“I’ve been pretty regular contact with them. We facetimed every weekend,” Batina said. She knew her children were growing while she was gone.

“I could see that they were getting bigger. Just having a conversation with my son now, some of the topics we talk about just amaze me. I kinda knew what to expect, that they were probably gonna look a little different, look a little taller,” Batina said. “To me, my daughter doesn’t look like a baby anymore. She looks like this little girl. It’s kinda sad but at the same time I know that they can’t stay like babies forever.

“This is the longest I’ve been away from my kids. There were several people that I was deployed who were away from there children as well,” Batina said. “It was just really hard, you know, trying to focus on the mission and them not really understanding why I’m gone.”

Batina asked Gavin what he wanted to do Thursday evening.

“We’ve been talking about Chik-fil-A for a while now.” Batina said.

“Yea, Chik-fil-A,” Gavin said before drawing in closer for another hug.

Email Richard Babich at or follow him on Twitter @rbabichTWV.


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