JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – Despite the rain pouring around her and the air burning in her lungs, 8 year old Celine Dela Montanye was determined to finish the race. She began the 5K, an event hosted by I Corps and the 62nd Airlift Wing to commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as a dedication to her father and all deployed service members.
Little did she know that while she was splashing her way across the race track, her father, Tech. Sgt. Russell Dela Montanye of the 446th Logistics Readiness Flight, would be waiting as she crossed the finish line.
Deployed since mid-July, Dela Montanye wanted to organize something special for his young daughter. Coordinating with his wife, April, several plans were made, revised and remade.
“We had a couple of ideas fall through as he made his way back to the U.S., but we managed to pull it off,” said April. “With the timing of things, we thought the MLK 5K was the perfect opportunity to surprise Celine and show our support for MLK Day at the same time.”
As Celine rounded the corner to the finish line, she was greeted with the familiar face of her father, his arms outstretched holding a bouquet of her favorite pink roses. All thoughts of the rain and the race immediately disappeared and were replaced with waterfalls of emotion.
“Daddy! You’re finally home,” she sobbed through tears as she crossed the tape. “I missed you so much.”
The emotional homecoming surprise proved successful and Dela Montanye was overjoyed to be reunited with his daughter. Wiping tears from his daughter’s face he said, “It feels good to be home, to be with my family again, and to be able to watch Celine grow up again.”
For Celine, the reunion seemed too good to be true.
“I thought I was dreaming,” said Celine. “I ran faster, so I can hug Daddy before I woke up!”
Celine, a young girl with a huge personality, has already proven to be an extraordinary talent beyond her years. She has been featured on several media platforms including the “HiHo Kids” Youtube channel, Zulily, an American e-commerce company headquartered in Seattle that sells clothing, footwear, toys and home products and the Netflix series, “A Little Help with Carol Burnett.” The Netflix show features kids between the ages 5 to 9, who assist adults who face dilemmas that they need help in resolving. The opinionated “experts” weigh in with their thoughts on the grown ups’ problems. Each episode features a celebrity guest who bravely brings their quandary in front of the kids to get their thoughts.
With the family reunited, spirits are at an all-time high in the Dela Montanye household.
“It feels amazing,” said Celine. “I feel a thousand percent excited that when I wake up, because I know my Daddy is home, and I get to hang out with him.”