BENSONHURST— There were plenty of tears, cheers and smiles at P.S. 186 on Friday morning as a teacher arranged for an emotional and heartfelt holiday-time reunion between one of her first grade students and the child’s soldier father, whom the youngster had not seen in more than a year.
Little Isabella Mei got the surprise of her young life when her father, U.S. Army Sgt. Vincent Mei, suddenly turned up in the auditorium of her school at 7601 19th Ave. at the invitation of her teacher, Luigina Pace.
Isabella thought her dad was still in Jordan, where he has been stationed with his Army Reserve unit.
“This is wonderful. I’m so happy!” Mei said, moments after he came out from behind a curtain onstage and hugged his daughter, who appeared stunned to see him.
Mei, who flew in from the Middle East to surprise his little girl, said he’s home for good. He will complete the remainder of his military commitment at a New Jersey army base.
Mei’s wife, Shirley, his three-year-old son Wyatt and his mother, Pei Wan Mei, were at the school for the big moment.
Isabella’s teacher planned the reunion with military precision. “I wanted this to be a special moment for Isabella,” Pace told the Home Reporter.
Isabella and her fellow students from Class 1-305 were brought into the auditorium at 10 a.m. under the pretext of viewing a video Mei sent from Jordan as a Christmas greeting.
Principal Bayan Ebeid-Cadotte and several teachers and teachers’ aides flocked to the auditorium to witness the reunion.
In the video, Mei talked about how much he missed his daughter and how much he hated being tens of thousands of miles away from his family.
After the video, Pace asked Isabella to get up onstage to talk about her father. But the shy youngster managed only a few “yes” or “no” answers to Pace’s questions.
Eager to end the suspense, Mei popped out from behind a curtain and gave his daughter a big hug as her classmates cheered and the teachers and aides shed tears.
Isabella cried, too.
Enveloped in her father’s warm embrace, she held on tight.
“She hasn’t seen him in a long time. All she does is talk about him. We’re lucky because we have FaceTime, so we were able to talk to him while he was overseas. But it’s not the same as having him home,” Shirley Wei told the Home Reporter.
Elaine Delaney, parent coordinator at P.S. 186, said that, while a year might not seem like a great deal of time to an adult, it’s a long stretch for a child with a parent serving in the military. “When you’re six years old, a year is a big chunk out of your life,” she said.
After the hugs and smiles, it was time for photos. Everyone wanted to have their picture taken with the military hero.
“Thank you for your service,” Ebeid-Cadotte told Wei as she shook his hand.
“This has been great. I’m so glad we got to do it,” said Ebeid-Cadotte. “It’s what we’re all about here at P.S. 186. We’re all about family.”
Wei said he was looking forward to spending quality time with his family.