Mom gets a surprise, straight from Iraq

Mom gets a surprise, straight from Iraq

soldierwithfamily-webCAMDEN — It was the best birthday present Eva Irizarry could ever receive.

On Jan. 27, Irizarry’s son, Pfc. Andre Maldonado, surprised her at the Osborn Family Health Center with an early two-week leave from Iraq. Many of Irizarry’s co-workers at Osborn, which provides primary and specialty care for needy Camden-area residents, joined in the celebration.

“Having him here is the best day of my life,” she said. “I worry all the time about him and all the other soldiers returning home safely.”

A combat engineer with the U.S. Army’s 1st Armored Division, Maldonado has helped to train Iraqi soldiers and make convoy routes safe south of Baghdad for the past nine months. He told his mother that his leave had been changed from late January to late February — and his wife, brother and even a few close Lourdes associates kept up the deception. Maldonado said he thought he would be surprising his mother on Jan. 28, but he managed to get an early flight out of Kuwait. His wife, Sydney, daughter, Olivia, and brother, Chris met him at Philadelphia International Airport before heading to Camden.

“It feels really good to be home. The living conditions there are not good, but you try to make it work,” he said in between hugs. “Now, I’m here to have fun and spend time with my family.”

That fun includes not only Irizarry’s birthday celebration, but a belated Christmas.

“The joy of having her son is the best present she could have,” said Rachel Segarra, Maldonado’s godmother and part of Lourdes’ antenatal unit.

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