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Tearful reunion for holidays

School principal’s son surprises her with early return from Afghanistan

Posted: December 13, 2013 6:12 p.m.
Updated: December 13, 2013 6:12 p.m.

Marie Stump, principal of Fair Oaks Ranch Community School, greets son, Mark, upon his surprise return from Afghanistan on Friday. Signal photo by Charlie Kaijo

It was a collaborative effort when staff from Fair Oaks Ranch Community School arranged a surprise family reunion for the school’s principal and her son, who was away in Afghanistan for one year.

Marie Stump, a long-time Valencia resident, expected to welcome home Mark Stump on Saturday afternoon. However, she received the surprise of the holiday season when she walked into her office Friday and found him awaiting her.

The reunion was an emotional one, and tears flooded many of the onlookers’ eyes as Marie and her son embraced.

“I don’t know how I feel,” Marie Stump said, wiping away stray tears. “I’m relieved. I’m happy. I’m excited and I’m anxious — I am all of the above.”

Mark Stump, 30, was living in Camp Leatherneck in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, working as civilian director of contracting after serving in the Army.

“It’s a good feeling to be home,” said Mark Stump, who had just flown in and came straight to the school from LAX.

Jim Stump, Marie’s husband and Mark’s father, was the mastermind behind the reunion. He schemed, along with his son, and tricked his wife to think Mark was coming home a day later.

“I can’t believe it,” Marie Stump said. “They pulled it off, and with straight faces too.”

Ione Chu, the elementary school’s office manager, conspired with faculty members to keep Marie away from her office so Jim could sneak Mark inside.

“You know what? It’s great,” Chu said following the reunion. “She really missed him a lot and she’s been waiting a long time to see him. So this is a good surprise.”

Although the family is excited to all be together for the holidays, Mark Stump is returning to Afghanistan on Jan. 6.



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