NORFOLK — James Richardson and his three sons thought they were in for a regular Sunday at the circus.
They’d been chosen as “winners” for a prize at the UniverSoul Circus, and were called to center stage.
They were given a choice for their reward: money or a puppy. After choosing the puppy, they then had to select between the puppy or a surprise backstage.
Luckily for them, they chose the surprise. The curtain lifted, revealing a saluting Petty Officer 3rd Class LaQualla Richardson.
“It was exciting,” said James’ wife and the boys’ mother. “I don’t know how to explain it, it’s wonderful. I missed them.”
It’s been about six months since the Chesapeake family was together. LaQualla Richardson had been deployed on the USS George H.W. Bush since January. She returned a month early.
“I figured it would be memorable because they were excited to come to the circus and they weren’t expecting me home for another month,” she said.
The staff of UniverSoul said they’ve never done a surprise homecoming like this.
“I just think it touches the hearts of the military families and let’s them know we care about them,” said Deneise Howard, UniverSoul producer.
James Richardson said the moment was “beautiful” and likened his excitement to the first time he saw LaQualla. The couple has been together for 11 years and married four.
“It’s too much for words, it’s been a long time coming,” he said. “It just means we start our life again. Everything was on pause. It’s a team, it’s always a team effort. Without my star player I can’t operate.”
The couple’s sons also were excited. The oldest, Jaylin, 12, said he wiped a tear away when he saw his mother.
“I was like so happy and I was surprised,” he said, adding that he’s been helping his father around the house and taking care of his two younger brothers.
Richardson said this recent deployment was the hardest thing she’s ever been through.
“I’ve never been away from boys for that long,” she said. “It was rewarding as well to know that my husband was able to play both roles while I was gone.”
(c)2017 The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.)
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