After nine months of deployment in Iraq, United States Army First Class Sergeant Lesley Slade has returned home to St. Joseph.
“I’m super happy to be home,” Lesley said. “I’ve been looking forward to this for nine months.”
The soldier and mother of three was able to surprise her two youngest daughters, Ashley Slade and Meleah Burnett, during the Hometown Heroes assembly at their elementary school.
Students and staff at Mark Twain Elementary hid the soldier behind the gym stage curtain before unveiling Lesley's homecoming.
“I wanted to surprise them, especially since I knew I was coming back while they were still in school,” Lesley said.
The family was greeted with music and banners welcoming Lesley back home while she greeted her children with long awaited hugs.
“When I felt her hug me, I got super happy and I couldn’t control the emotions that kept going on,” Meleah said.
Lesley returns home after what she hopes to be her fifth and final deployment to Iraq. She has given 17 years of service to the Army, where she met her husband, Keith Slade while they were both deployed in Baghdad, Iraq.
“Lesley is a very caring, compassionate person. She first and foremost is a soldier,” Keith said.
But the soldier never passed up time to speak with her children. Lesley said she called home twice a day during her deployment, often helping the kids with their homework.
Lesley also carved out time each day to call her oldest son, 20-year old Keegan Slade, who is currently serving an active duty term in Baumholder, Germany.
“He is following in Mom and Dad’s footsteps and we’re very proud of him,” Keith said.
As a military family, the Slades said they raised their kids to be tough in difficult situations.
“I’ve taught them to be strong, how to take challenges and make them into a better situation,” Lesley said.
The Ashley and Meleah said they might also want to follow in their mom’s footsteps and pursue a career in the military, but for now they are just happy to have her home.
“She is my hero,” Ashley said.
In addition to her time overseas, Lesley is a member of the 387th unit of the US Postal Army Reserves in Bethany, Missouri.
The Slades said now that Lesley is home, they plan to start spending time together as a family, starting with a three-week trip to Disneyland after the school year is finished.
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