NEW YORK, NY/HASBROUCK HEIGHTS, NJ -- It came together in about one week’s time: a collective effort to reunite a local military family in time for Christmas and happened live on a national cable program Saturday morning.
Rose Pagan of A Hero's Welcome North Jersey was contacted by a news producer who said they wanted to bring home a soldier for the holidays, and if she knew anyone. She didn't have to look far.
The Miranda family of Hasbrouck Heights thought they were being brought to the Fox News Channel studios to talk about being away from their son, Naval Petty Officer Third Class Elwin Miranda, during the holidays and Skype with him. He is stationed on a ship in Japan and hadn’t been home for Christmas in three years.
Unbeknownst to the family, he had flown into LaGuardia Airport Friday evening. Saturday morning, members of A Hero’s Welcome North Jersey, spearheaded by Pagan, Warriors’ Watch Riders, New Jersey State Police and Miranda gathered at the Vince Lombardi rest stop on the New Jersey Turnpike. They began a processional along the Turnpike into the Lincoln Tunnel. Once in New York, the New York Police Department provided an escort the rest of the way.
While the processional was in transit, the Miranda family, parents Nelson and Winellen and his two brothers, talked with the Fox hosts about being away from their oldest.
“It’s hard, we’re missing him a lot,” said Nelson Miranda. “Communication is hard with the different time zones.”
“It’s really tough this year,” said Winellen, his mother. “All our family is in the Philippines.”
A few blocks before arrival at the studios, a camera crew jumped into the car to begin the “Skype” session with his family in-studio. After a few minutes, the family noticed that the sailor was moving and couldn’t figure out why. The host confessed that Elwin wasn’t Skyping from Japan but in a motorcade coming down Sixth Avenue to the studios, as the network cut to a live shot of the car pulling up to the building.
“This is best Christmas gift ever. I’m overwhelmed. I’m so happy,” his mother said, as her son greeted the family on the set.
"This means everything," said Elwin, a 2015 graduate of Hasbrouck Heights High School. "It's amazing finally being here with my family for the holidays. It was hard keeping it a secret."
After a commercial break, the family talked with the hosts about being a military and the challenges that they face. They were asked what message they’d give other military families about being away from loved ones during the holiday.
“Keep in touch with them. They really need the support,” said Nelson Miranda. “Skype, text, letters will be a big help.”
The family plans an eight-day holiday trip to Florida.