HASBROUK HEIGHTS, NJ -- It was late Friday morning. The students at the Hasbrouck Heights Middle School were winding down their half day of classes before spring break. But a surprise awaited one student.
United States Coast Guard Petty Officer Second Class Michael Ejgird had taken the "red eye" for 96 hour leave. A reservist, he'd been away from his family for 19 months, actively deployed since October 2017 at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. With the help of principal Joseph Mastropietro, his first stop with his wife Denise was the middle school to surprise their daughter Madison.
"I only found out this morning (Friday) about it," said Mastropietro. "When mom called this morning, I told her to absolutely come in and surprise her."
The couple quietly entered the main doors, was greeted by Mastropietro, and went to the New Gym where Madison was in gym class. Both parents entered the gym and crossed at mid-court. Activity slowed as teachers and students realized what was happening. As they approached, the elder Ejgird opened his arms wide. Madison looked up, went to her father in an emotional, prolonged hug. Students applauded the reunion. Teachers wiped their eyes.
"I always see this on the news," said one physical education teacher. "Never in person."
"This is what life is all about "the special moments," noted Mastropietro. "They are a wonderful family that always go above and beyond in the community."
The family spent some time talking with the students they knew, and thanked Mastropietro for his help. Their next stop was the elementary school to surprise their son Max.
After the brief leave, Ejgird will return to Gitmo for one month to finish his demobilization. He'll then return to reserve status, active one weekend a month and two weeks during the year stationed in Staten Island.
What are his plans during his brief visit home?
"To enjoy my family," he said.
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TAPinto Hasbrouck Heights/Wood-Ridge/Teterboro is the official newspaper of the Hasbrouck Heights Board of Education and Hasbrouck Heights Borough Council.
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