A returning Fort Hood soldier surprised her two kids at Midway ISD schools on Monday.
It had been nine long months since five-year-old Daxton Hunter saw his mother. She was deployed to Kuwait with the 1st Cavalry Division 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team.
They were reunited in a surprise homecoming Monday morning at Hewitt Elementary School.
The kindergarten class was told they were going to have a special guest for some reading time. Sergeant Lacey Poltoratskiy walked in and Daxton couldn't hold in his excitement.
"Mommy," the five-year-old exclaimed.
Poltoratskiy embraced her son and they cried together.
View the emotional moment below:
Poltoratskiy said her family was very important to her while she was overseas.
"It was a lot easier to deploy knowing that the kids were going to be just down the road with my parents and all their grandparents are around. So having that family support is probably the biggest and that's what makes our military careers the easiest," Poltoratskiy said.
After the first surprise, it was time for the soldier to don a panther costume and surprise her oldest daughter, 12-year-old JaiceyBelle Hunter, who attended Midway Middle School.
But first, she got into character.
Poltoratskiy pulled on the panther costume and popped on the mascot head. She walked down the hall with cheerleaders and students carrying items for the food drive.
The students were told the news crews were there for the school's food drive. Then, everyone turned to the mascot to get a word of wisdom about community service.
Poltoratskiy took off her mascot head to her daughter's surprise.
For a second time that day, tears fell down Poltoratskiy's face.
JaiceyBelle said it was so difficult to not be able to show her mom her artistic progress during the deployment. Her mom supported her goals.
"And she's my artist so I would Amazon therapy and send her new markers and stuff to support that and she was doing her drawings," Poltoratskiy said.
Poltoratskiy's 12-year-old daughter had to switch schools last year after the first semester because her mom was deploying.
"Changing schools was hard," JaiceyBelle said.
JaiceyBelle will finish the semester at Midway Middle School, but then head to a Killeen school.
"It's hard because sometimes you know a lot of these people you won't see again," JaiceyBelle said.
JaiceyBelle said her mom got her and her brother stuffed animals at Build-a-Bear before the deployment and she hopes to bring her mom to the workshop to get her own.
The soldier stayed in touch with her family with FaceTime, chatting with the kids as they got ready for school and headed to school each morning.
Poltoratskiy said she missed a lot of special moments, but the family said they are excited to eat together and tell stories.
"We're just going to hang at my parents house and do some cuddles," she said.