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Published: 12/15/2012 - Updated: 1 year ago

Dad’s early return from tour with U.S. Navy a surprise holiday gift for his family

BY VANESSA McCRAY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Julie Luffy, left, holds daughter Aubrey Sadowy, 6, while her husband, PO 1st Class Eric Luffy, holds daughter Alivia Luffy after their on-air surprise homecoming at the Star 105 studio in Toledo. Mr. Luffy just returned from seven months’ duty in the United Arab Emirates. Julie Luffy, left, holds daughter Aubrey Sadowy, 6, while her husband, PO 1st Class Eric Luffy, holds daughter Alivia Luffy after their on-air surprise homecoming at the Star 105 studio in Toledo. Mr. Luffy just returned from seven months’ duty in the United Arab Emirates.
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After serving roughly seven months overseas with the U.S. Navy, Eric Luffy had just a little longer to wait before surprising his wife and family with a sooner-than-they-expected reunion.

Early Friday morning, PO 1st Class Luffy, 28, of Toledo waited as the minutes ticked toward the appointed time. He and the Star 105 radio show Andrew Z in the Morning conspired to arrange a homecoming to surprise his wife, Julie Luffy, 25. She thought her husband wasn’t coming home until closer to Christmas. Instead, the two were separated not by miles but by walls and hallways as the radio crew built up to the big holiday welcome home.

“I didn’t sleep last night — I couldn’t,” Petty Officer Luffy said.

PHOTO GALLERY

All the behind-the-scenes planning and waiting ended during Friday morning’s broadcast when Mr. Luffy entered the radio studio, where his wife came after being told she had won a prize.

The reaction: Kisses and hugs for his family and applause from the radio personalities who helped pull off the surprise.

“I know how much it means to be with your family during the holidays and how hard it is to be away from them during the holidays as well,” said the station’s program director, Nikki Landry.

She spent 12 years in the U.S. Air Force before her 2008 discharge and came up with the idea to surprise a military family with an on-air reunion. First, she contacted local officials and learned through Command Chief Mary Hill of the Navy Operational Support Center Toledo that Petty Officer Luffy was returning home soon from service in the United Arab Emirates. With his approval, the plan unfolded. The petty officer’s sister, Erin Livingston, helped con-vince Mrs. Luffy she had won a prize and needed to get to the radio station Friday to pick it up.

Mrs. Luffy arrived with daughters Aubrey Sadowy, 6, and Alivia Luffy, 4. She didn’t realize her husband, who had arrived in California days before, was now in Toledo. But she said she had an inkling something might be going on. Her husband sounded vague in a recent phone conversation, and she wasn’t sure the prize was the only reason she had been asked to stop by the station.

Star 105 radio host Andrew Zepeda, left,  chats with 1st Class PO Eric Luffy on the air before he surprises his family with an early holiday homecoming. Star 105 radio host Andrew Zepeda, left, chats with 1st Class PO Eric Luffy on the air before he surprises his family with an early holiday homecoming.
THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT Enlarge | Buy This Photo

The station, WWWM-FM, arranged for Mr. Luffy to go on-air by himself first, and he talked on Andrew Z’s show about the challenges of missing his family and praised his wife. “She’s an amazing woman, and I just hope she gets the appreciation that everybody throws at me on a daily basis,” he told the crew.

After he left the studio, Mrs. Luffy was shown in and presented with prizes she gets to keep, including a year’s worth of tickets to concerts sponsored by the station. Then, the show arranged for Mr. Luffy to call in and say hello to his family while they were in the studio.

“I love you. Hurry home,” Mrs. Luffy said, during the phone call.

Moments later, he walked through the studio door, the family’s happy reunion complete.

The family plans to celebrate the holidays in Toledo, and Petty Officer Luffy will enroll at Owens Community College in January. He’s interested in studying criminal justice and wants to join the Toledo Police Department.

Contact Vanessa McCray at: vmccray@theblade.com or 419-724-6065.



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