NUTLEY, NJ - Elise Martinez, who spent the summer at officer training school at Fort Benning, Georgia, surprised her boys today at Petracco and Sons Deli in Nutley in an atmosphere of laughter, happy tears, and applause.
Members of the Nutley Public Safety Department worked in secret over the past several days to plan the surprise for Travis and Jonathan. Martinez arrived at the Bloomfield Ave deli about a half hour before the reunion. At the same time, the boy's father Jonathan, picked up the boys from Yantacaw school for their lunch break. Elise hid behind the deli counter as the boys entered the deli.
While Elise was hiding. deli owner Alphonse Petracco invited the boys to feed the fish in the large aquarium in the dining area. As they were occupied feeding their new friends, Elise walked out to surprise the boys. What followed next was a period of laughter, and hugs, and more laughter, and more hugs. Elise carried both boys around the deli, hugging them the entire time. One deli patron said 'if anyone thinks woman can't carry their weight in the military, they haven't seen her.'
While Elise was training in Georgia, dad Jonathan, who served as a Sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps, took care of the boys with the help of Elise's mother Lisa Pace. The boys spent time at both homes and "made it work.' Aunts and other relatives joined the reunion today. Jonathan (dad) told his family that he could not been about to make the past few months work without the help from family.
While she is back home in Nutley Elise plans said she plans to spend her time "just being with them." Travis Martinez who is in Pre-K said that he cannot 'remember being this excited, ever.'
After the initial period of hugs the family of four climbed on board Nutley Fire Engine No. 1 for a ride through Nutley with a full complement of lights and sirens. Afterwards Travis, who plans to be a fireman when he grows up, wore a helmet while on the ride that "went super duper fast." (The truck actually drove well below the speed limit, but when you're pre-k it must have seemed really fast.) Jonathan, a second grader at Yantacaw school, wants to be an artiste.
While eating lunch with all three of her guys, Elise said that her service couldn't have happened without "all of this," gesturing to her family who gathered for the reunion.
Elise Martinez has been serving in the Army for nearly six years. She is a second Lieutenant, and plans to spend her entire career in service to the country. In order to enter the officer training program, candidates need a college degree. Elise majored in psychology at Ramapo College.
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