Orlando Rivera hadn’t seen his three children in months, and the U.S. Marine sergeant wanted to make a big deal out of his return from overseas service.
Sergeant Rivera, 30, of Toledo interrupted an award ceremony to surprise his daughter Gabriella, 8, at Westfield Franklin Park mall today. She and her brothers weren’t expecting the reunion, and the three kids clutched their dad in a big bear hug.
The homecoming occurred weeks before most of his family expected him home in mid-April.
“My heart is pumping really hard,” said Linda Torres, the Marine’s mother who, like other family members, said they were shocked when he showed up.
Mall officials worked with Sergeant Rivera’s sister to plan the reunion, and got his family members to show up by concocting an award to present to his daughter to recognize her for writing frequently to her father while he was deployed. His time overseas included service in Africa and Italy.