Soldier dons Santa suit to surprise daughters at Windsor Elementary School
Christmas couldn’t come soon enough for two Windsor Elementary students. The kids learned their daddy made it home from his tour of duty Wednesday afternoon when he surprised them during a special school assembly.
“It was definitely worth spending the night at my parents house to see the look on these girls faces today,” said Capt. Joshua Adam Risher, who has served with the Army since 2007. “Just the utter look of shock and disbelief. It was great.”
Risher, disguised as Santa Claus, danced and wiggled his way on stage as students from the Center for Knowledge at E.L. Wright sang “Rock n’ Roll Santa” to everyone at Windsor. Risher then made his way to his family who was sitting in the front row and took off his sunglasses and shiny white beard to reveal himself. The girls were floored.
“I was so happy. I was shocked, I could almost cry,” said 8-year-old Christy.
Risher had been stationed one year in Korea and left just before Christmas last year, one day after his daughter Kaylee turned 5. Christy cried when he left.
“I was so sad that he had to go again,” she said.
“Salad Saturdays,” dad’s homemade chicken and hanging out with Risher in the morning had to be put on hold until he got back, but the kids were able to occasionally speak to him through Skype sessions and phone calls.
“The hardest part on this one was the time difference,” Risher said. About 13 hours separated him and his family, which was greater than the eight-hour time difference when he was in Iraq.
“When I’m first waking up in the morning, its late afternoon for them, but I had to go off to PT and then work, so other than weekends, it was tough to get a lot of time to talk to the kids,” he said.
Risher’s wife, Amanda, also struggled to hold the fort down at home as her 3-year-old son suffered from severe allergies and her daughter Christy took a tumble onto the ground at school one day, losing one of her teeth and chipping the other.
“It’s usually where I would call him and he would take over,” she said. “So it’s different, but with family here it makes everything a lot easier and the school has been so wonderful. They’ve been able to work with us for everything.”
Christy had to be the big sister and take care of her little sister Kaylee, though she admitted they watched a lot of television.
“I was the second mom,” Christy said. “I had to be the responsible one.”
Unlike previous deployments where the Risher’s were stationed in Fort Hood and Fort Bliss in Texas, returning to the family’s hometown in May 2013 made the year-long tour a lot less stressful.
“It’s nice to be close to home,” Amanda said. “If he had to deploy this was a time to when we were right here with family.”
Windsor Elementary Principal Beth Elliott said the school makes an effort to support military families and help them deal with the challenges of military life. Elliot also praised Amanda for being an active parent and volunteering at the school
“A lot of our children have family members that are in an out,” she said. “I think that’s what makes it such a close knit community because they take care of each other”.
Kindergarten teacher Marles Badillo took steps to reach out to E.L. Wright to set up the holiday program and work with Amanda to coordinate the surprise. The Rishers’ son Jackson also was surprised by Risher at his preschool.
Amanda said they planned to take the children out of school Thursday to celebrate Kaylee’s sixth birthday with trips to EdVenture Children’s Museum, the zoo and Chuck E. Cheese’s.
Dad also is going to get a surprise dinner specially made by his children. Amanda said it would consist of Hamburger Helper beef stroganoff and a salad.
The Rishers expect a warm Christmas this year. But the life of a servicemember continues. In one month, Risher and his family will be relocating to Fort Campbell in Kentucky where soldiers are being trained to manage the Ebola crisis in West Africa.
Risher said he thinks he is likely to get a six-month reprieve but knows that he possibly could be called to Liberia.
“Hopefully for my family, not yet,” he said. “I do my duty, but hopefully the Army can give me a bye for a little bit.”
But before he thinks about another deployment, Risher can take comfort in the simple words his daughter Kaylee said upon seeing him.
“I just love him so much,” Kaylee said.