2018-10-10 / Featured

Happy Homecoming

Military mom’s return home surprises her daughter at school
By Daniela Gamboa
Courier-Times Sta ff Writer


Odaliz Cruz, in uniform, reacts at seeing her daughter, Itzel, left, when she surprised the Bethel Hill Charter student Monday during lunch. PHOTOS BY DANIELA GAMBOA | courier-times Odaliz Cruz, in uniform, reacts at seeing her daughter, Itzel, left, when she surprised the Bethel Hill Charter student Monday during lunch. PHOTOS BY DANIELA GAMBOA | courier-times After being deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba a single mother returned home Monday to surprise her nine-year-old daughter after nine months away.

Odaliz Cruz surprised her daughter with a warm welcome during lunchtime at Bethel Hill Charter School.

Cruz marched in with her head held high directly to the back of the lunch room where Itzel Cruz sat in the back of the school cafeteria.

The moment they made eye contact, the cafeteria went still and Itzel Cruz raced over to her mother for a big, long hug.

“I always wanted to have someone to hold. Yes you have your battle buddies but it’s not the same as having your child after a long day of work,” said Cruz.

When her daughter was five years old, Cruz enlisted in the U.S. Army to pursue a dream of helping people. At one point, it was a dream she didn’t believe would be possible after getting pregnant at a young age.


Itzel Cruz wipes a tear as her mother kisses her forehead. Itzel Cruz wipes a tear as her mother kisses her forehead. Her contract empowers her to stay six years on active duty in the military service and two inactive.

According to Cruz her duties as an E4 Spc. require her to be a mechanic and military officer but being a mother outrank all those jobs.

“I like it because I feel like she is helping a lot of people. I don’t get to see her everyday but I know she is helping, said Itzel Cruz.

While serving abroad Odaliz’ cousin, Lourdes Espinoza, has been her daughter’s primary caretaker.

Being in the same time zone has made communication with family simpler now that Cuba has cellular telephone service for international phone calls.

Operational security rules in place over the last year have made things a little more difficult for the mother and daughter while Odaliz was overseas.

Not being able to have her daughter understand the depths of her career due to restrictive rules made her career impactful on family dynamics at times.

“For me it was very painful just with everything that is going on. The stress of it all in Guantanamo Bay is a lot of politics so you always have to watch yourself. It’s not a combat environment, per se, but you always have to be on your toes and be careful of what you say and what you do,” said Cruz.

Cruz is the first in her family to join the Army.

Being in the military and getting to help people everyday isn’t just a duty but her passion.

According to Cruz she will pursue another career the day her daughter asks her to.

As of her return, Cruz will finish up her enlistment here at home with the National Guard. She plans to reenlist.

“Everything is going to change because we will be having a new life now that we have an extra person,” Itzel Cruz said of her mom’s return.

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