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Sailor surprises his twin daughters at school

• Girls learn dad is home when they hear pledge.

Posted: April 3, 2008 10:52 p.m.
Updated: June 5, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Travis Peterson hugs his daughters Antionette, left, and Elizabeth during an assembly at Mountainview Elementary on Thursday morning after surprising them with a visit home from his service in Afghanistan. Peterson, a Navy information technician, is on a 15-day leave after serving seven months in Kabal, Afghanistan.

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Antoinette and Elizabeth Peterson got a special surprise during their school assembly Thursday morning when their father, U.S. Navy Petty Officer First Class Travis Peterson stepped up to the microphone to lead the Pledge of Allegiance.

The Mountainview fourth-graders - and twin sisters - were under the impression that their dad was still in Afghanistan, where he has been deployed since July.

"I just kind of wanted to surprise them, and it turned into this grand event," Peterson said. "It took everything I had not to go see them last night when I got in."

The girls were able to contain themselves long enough for Peterson to finish leading the Pledge, but then ran through the crowd of students to their father's side. Peterson bent down and took one girl in each arm, rocking them back and forth while the Mountainview student body sang, "I'm Proud to be an American."

"When he came out, I just started crying," Elizabeth said. "I was in shock, but I was so happy."

Peterson will be home with his family for a little more than two weeks.

"It's for R and R, so it's just for 15 days, but I've kind of dreamt of this moment for a long time," Peterson said, wiping tears from his eyes. "This is my eighth deployment, so it definitely gets harder as the girls get older."

Peterson is an information technician stationed near Kabal, and his unit is training the Afghan National Army so that they will be able to protect the Afghan people once the Americans are gone. His wife Josephine said that Antoinette and Elizabeth ask about their father every day, but they understand that he has to be away.

"They understand the situation. They know about the war and they know their father has to go," Josephine said. "They have a pretty good connection with him, even though it's mostly on the phone."

Peterson said he tells his daughters that he has to go out and protect those people who can't protect themselves.

"I've been over there helping other people's kids, and helping them have the opportunity to go to school," Peterson said. "I just can't wait to tell my girls all about it, and to tell them how lucky they are."

Wearing desert camouflage fatigues, Peterson, who has had to deal with snipers and vehicle-borne bombs for the past few months, admitted that he was nervous as he walked across the Saugus campus to see his daughters.

"My gosh, I'm shaking," he said.

But after spotting Elizabeth and Antoinette in the crowd of students gathered at the outdoor assembly, Peterson seemed more at ease.

"I want you to know," Peterson told the crowd. "These two girls - I've thought about them every night."

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