HAVRE DE GRACE, Md. (WJZ) — These stories never fail to bring a tear to your eye. A Maryland mother, deployed to Afghanistan for a year, returns home and surprises her daughter at a Havre de Grace elementary school.

Monique Griego was there for the emotional reunion.

Eight-year-old Chelsea’s Christmas wish was that her mom would make it back home for her birthday. But up until now, she didn’t think that was going to happen.

For Air Force Major Annette Paglia, this day is 12 long months in the making.

“It’s exciting. I can feel the tears already. It’s going to be very exciting to see her. I know she’s going to go crazy,” she said.

Last January, the Havre de Grace mom deployed to Afghanistan, leaving her 8-year-old daughter Chelsea in the care of her dad.

“As a single dad, this year it was tough because mom did everything. I’m not going to lie, mom did everything. I learned new respect for mom,” her husband, Mike Paglia, said.

Chelsea, who turns nine Sunday, thinks her mom is going to miss her birthday and isn’t coming home until February.

But, as Chelsea waits with other kids to be picked up from school, she has no idea Paglia is just minutes away, making her way down the halls of Meadowvale Elementary.

For mom, the anticipation is almost too much.

When the moment finally arrives, Chelsea spots her within seconds–a birthday surprise that brings an end to a tough year without mom.

“It was really difficult because I don’t have her to do my hair. And I don’t really have her in my life and all the other kids do,” Chelsea said.

“It was so exciting to see her reaction,” Annette Paglia said. “I missed her so much.”

Major Paglia has a few days off before she has to head back to work. But as far as her deployment, she is home for good.

Paglia is an Air Force program manager based out of Aberdeen.

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