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Dad returns from Kuwait, surprises Pioneer Elementary School daughter

BOLINGBROOK – U.S. Army National Guard Specialist Alfredo Fuentes of Bolingbrook, who just returned from a nine-month tour of duty in Kuwait, surprised his daughters during the annual Valley View Middle School and Elementary School Choral Festival last week at Romeoville High School.

The reunion took place April 3 after his daughter Jackie, a fifth-grader at Pioneer Elementary School, and all of the district’s elementary school choirs sang two songs to open the concert.

Among those in attendance were Fuentes’ two other daughters, Bolingbrook High School graduate Marisol Pardo and Bolingbrook High School freshman Jessica. 

Jackie’s mother, Yvette Fuentes, planned the entire reunion in cooperation with a group called Operation Welcome You Home.

“I just wanted to break out in tears when I saw him,” Jackie said as she recalled wondering what all the people coming down the aisle carrying flags were all about. “When I saw him, I thought, ‘Oh gosh, it’s him.’”

“I’m so excited I’m back,” said Fuentes, whose family has lived in Bolingbrook for seven years. “We’re going to make up for lost time. We’re going to do anything and everything. I can’t wait to get started with my life again.”

Jackie, who says music is her favorite class at Pioneer, had a difficult time deciding whether to stick around and sing in one more number featuring all 17 elementary and middle school choral groups at the end of the show.

“I don’t care as long as he’s with me,” she said before finally choosing to head home to spend some quality time with her father.

When Pioneer Principal Carmen Killingsworth asked Jackie if she would be in school Thursday morning, the fifth-grader was unsure. Killingsworth invited her to bring her father to school to meet her classmates.

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