Education

New Soldier from Roxbury Hides as Holiday Gift, Stuns Family with Unannounced Visit

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As her mother weeps, Salome Tsimintia hugs her little sister, Bianca
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L-R: Amanda Luzniak, Alyssa Anderson, Salome Tsimintia, Shannon Brady and Brittany Schlenk Credits: Ann Rhodes
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Credits: Ann Rhodes
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ROXBURY, NJ – A 2014 Roxbury High School graduate, who joined the Army and sadly told her family she wasn’t coming home for the holidays, surprised them today by showing up inside a big Christmas present opened at her sister’s elementary school.

All the fibbing, planning and behind-the-scenes orchestration needed to make Salome Tsimintia’s idea become reality paid off when the 18-year-old Succasunna resident emerged from the big box and stepped into the arms of her 9-year-old sister Bianca Jackson.

“Are you kidding me,” exclaimed her tearful mother, Maya Jackson, who was lured to the Jefferson Elementary School with a phony story about Bianca being randomly chosen to receive a special gift. Tsimintia’s dad, Barry Jackson, appeared a bit stunned as the loving prank unfolded before a room full of 3rd Graders.

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Tsimintia, who graduated Army Basic Training on Oct. 30 and is now in Advanced Individual Training (AIT) in Virginia, said she knew she wanted to pull off the stunt after seeing YouTube videos of other military people surprising loved ones with unexpected visits.

To accomplish the feat, Tsimintia had to enlist the help of school staff and tell as few people as possible. That created a problem: She needed to get to Roxbury with nobody finding out because she also wanted to surprise her friends.

"So, I had a friend from another town come get me at the airport,” she said.

At the school, Bianca and her classmates were gathered in a room and told one pupil’s name was picked out of a “big hat” to receive a special gift. After Bianca was told she was the lucky winner, she was brought to the front of the room where a big box, decorated like a Christmas present, was wheeled in on a cart.

Then, the box was lifted to reveal that the gift was her big sister, who'd been gone for five months. “When I first saw her, I got like amazed and then, when I hugged her, I started crying,” said Bianca.

Tsimintia said she was initially stunned too when the box came off. “Oh my god, when they lifted the box I couldn’t see anything for a moment because everything was so bright,” she said. “It feels amazing to be at home.”

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