It was an emotional and patriotic day over at the Alice A. Macomber School in Westport as one student got the surprise of her life.

Thirteen and Boatswain's Mate First Class Petty Officer Brian Sitarz was away from his family for the past 14 months while he was stationed in Djibouti, Africa. This was Sitarz's third and final tour after serving in the United States Navy for the past 13 years. Born and raised in New Bedford, Sitarz is a firefighter for the city when he's home.

But once he returned to Massachusetts from Africa today, he had to make one very special stop the moment he got home – to see his daughter, Mila.

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The Macomber School hosted a "Military Support Day" for the students in order to disguise the surprise for Mila, as the children all wore different colors of camouflage to show their support for our troops. Mila represented her dad with a special shirt that read "My Daddy Is My Hero" on the front and "Outta My Way, My Daddy Comes Home Today" on the back. Little did she know, since she has yet to learn how to read, that the surprise was written right on her shirt all along.

One of Mila's teachers, Allison Correia, read I’ll Lend You My Daddy – a book about fathers serving in the military – to the class as a distraction while Sitarz waited patiently around the corner, just out of sight of his daughter.

When the moment finally arrived, Mila stood in awe as her father came walking towards her, stunned for just a moment, then sprinted off into his arms as she yelled "Daddy!". It was a moment shared between father and daughter that will never be forgotten.

"It was a very emotional experience, especially to be gone for so long," Sitarz said emotionally. "I left back in April of 2020 and just got back on Friday. This is my third deployment and they never get easier. It’s most certainly challenging, but the fact of being able to come home to see my family again is a feeling that only those who have served can understand and experience."

Dr. Cheryl Greeson, the principal at Macomber School, was pleased to honor our military with a special support day, especially since her husband was in the armed forces for years.

"It’s amazing that we’re able to help support his family and for her to see her dad," Greeson said. "Having children whose dad was also away from home for months at a time, I know how stressful it is and can be, so for Mila to be able to see her dad after a year brings so much joy to me."
Now that Sitarz is home, he plans on remaining with the New Bedford Fire Department for the foreseeable future and watch his daughter grow before his own eyes, rather than on a tablet.
To Petty Officer Sitarz, I'd like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your service and all you have done to protect this country. Your family is more than happy to have you home and the SouthCoast is blessed to have a man of your stature sticking around.
Welcome home, soldier, you've been missed.

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