By Cheryl Rodewig, The BayonetJanuary 19, 2011
FORT BENNING, Ga. - Alton Jr., Alexandria, Alannah and Aydan didn't know what was in store for them when they headed to Glendale, Ariz., to attend the Tostitos BCS National Championship Jan. 10. But when they were called out on the field during the pre-game ceremony, they were surprised by a familiar face standing alongside the football players - Staff Sgt. Alton Day, the children's father and support operations NCO for the 13th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion.
"My mind just went blank and then I just started screaming," said 12-year-old Alexandria. "I heard someone say we could go up to them, and so I started running. I was just overjoyed. This is the best surprise I've ever gotten. I liked being at the game because my dad was there, and we were all as a family having fun together."
Day was one of four service members chosen to reunite with family while home on R&R. All four were from the winning team of the Connect to Home Bowl, a flag football tournament played at Joint Base Balad Dec. 21. Their reunion was broadcast during halftime along with highlights from the tournament.
Gwen, Day's wife, said she is grateful for the efforts by Tostitos and the USO, which collaborated to make the event a success.
"When we reunited on the field, that was the first time we had seen each other in the last eight months. It was unbelievable," she said. "They really took a pivotal moment that a military family always enjoys ... and they took it to a different level. They spared no expense in making this a moment we will cherish for a lifetime."
The five-day trip included meals, first-class airfare, meet-and-greets with football celebrities and lodging at a four-diamond hotel. Day said he was contacted about the event two to three weeks ago.
"I didn't know what to say. We knew we were being flown in. We knew our children didn't know we were coming. We knew it would be exciting ... but we didn't really know what to expect," he said.
As a fan of football, Day said he was glad to be there at the game.
"Watching those two teams go head to head was wonderful. I grew up in the South, so to see them up close and watch them in action was great," he said.
But what made it special was seeing his family - "just to see them face to face," Day said. "I'm ecstatic. I'm honored I had an opportunity to be a part of the whole process."
Alton Jr. said it was exciting to see "hundreds of thousands of people" in the audience and to stand "with football legends on a championship field," but seeing his dad was the highlight of the day.
"It had been so long since I'd heard from him. I was really glad when I finally saw his face," said the 14-year-old. "I didn't know what to do. I had my baby brother in my hands, so it was hard to run. It kind of took me a minute. When I was out there, I started crying. I had nothing to say. I was shocked. I think I will really remember this trip."
Day will redeploy with his unit in April.