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Dad. Army mom returns early from deployment to surprise kids at school

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A family from Milton Hershey School is reunited just in time for the holidays.

Four students of the school – Nadia, in the fifth grade; Khan third; Leyla in first grade; and Kivanc in kindergarten – were surprised Thursday morning with the early arrival of their mother, US Army specialist Masallah Sema.

“I haven’t seen my kids for ten months,” Sema said. “Going from being a full-time mom and seeing your kids every day, to not seeing them for 10 months is a bit drastic. I am so glad I was able to come home early and surprise them.”

Sema had been deployed abroad for almost a year, most of it in Egypt. She was initially scheduled to return on January 15, but a change in plans allowed her to arrive and see her children before Christmas.

Sema surprised the four children at school, along with their father Tolga Cetin and members of the media, at a special gathering organized by Milton Hershey School staff.

“I couldn’t be more thankful or grateful to all of you [at Milton Hershey School]’ said Sama. “It’s phenomenal and I can’t express how much I appreciate it.”

Sema is originally from New Jersey and enrolled her children in Milton Hershey School just before her deployment. With Cetin working night shifts, she said, the boarding school in Derry Township is making sure their children are well looked after.

“It’s a blessing,” Sema said. “It is such a blessing that children can come here and that you take such good care of them. I always tell everyone, if they don’t know about the Milton Hershey School, “my kids are going to Harvard for kids.” That is literally what I call the Milton Hershey School. It’s such a beautiful place and I’m so excited for my kids to be a part of it.”

For their part, the kids were a combination of stunned happiness and embarrassment, with an intimate, tearful reunion paired with a collection of lights and cameras from media personnel.

“They were so focused on the cameras that they didn’t flinch!” Sam laughed. “Their reaction, I think, is just a shock at this point.”

When asked how much they had missed their mother while she was gone, the answers ranged from “a hundred” to “a trillion” and they collectively agreed that it was “the best Christmas ever.”

But the surprises aren’t over yet, Sema said. After being kicked out of school early, the family heads for their new home in Lykens, which Sema bought during his deployment and has yet to see in person.

“They each have their own room, and it’s only 45 minutes from here,” she said. ‘I can see them whenever I want. I am truly grateful that the military gave me this opportunity to pay off my debts and get my life in order for my children.”

And tomorrow, Sema said, the family will also get one last surprise: a new puppy will also join the family.

“This will hopefully be the best Christmas they’ve ever had in their lives,” said Sema.