El Paso, Texas-- Helen Ball Elementary school student Ariah Carmona had not seen her big brother Diego in over six months, but that was all about to change and it would be a special surprise Ariah would never forget.
“So, I had gone up to dance but then I sat back down but then they called me back up again so I was like why me," said 10-year-old Ariah Carmona.
Shocked, surprised and excited are the three words she used to explain the day her big brother Diego decided to surprise her with a special homecoming.
“I was very emotional. I just didn't see it coming at all,” said Ariah.
Diego is a proud Marine and has spent the past six months stationed in Florida. Although brother and sister are eight years apart in age, they have a special and strong bond.
“He was always taking care of her," said Jennifer Ochoa Carmona, Ariah and Diego's mom, "He would build forts with her and they were very close siblings so she took it really hard when he was leaving to the marines.”
After the passing of their grandmother this past November, Diego was set to make a trip back home but he wanted to make this visit special for his baby sister.
“My mom reached out to the counselor and asked her if we could do a whole surprise thing and the counselor was all for it," said Diego, "She said yes and she mentioned that they had the mascot suit and that was perfect.”
Diego surprised Ariah at her school, Helen Ball Elementary, while she was enjoying lunch with friends. Ariah did not think anything of the fact that the school's mascot had asked her to dance with him again, but it wasn't until the person behind the mascot whispered a familiar phrase that Ariah realized it may be her big brother underneath the Dalmatian mascot suit.
"We have this inside joke where we always tell each other that we're adopted," said Diego, "So when we were dancing I whispered in her ear, "You're adopted," and that's when she knew it was me."
The surprise homecoming moment meant so much to not only Ariah but to both her and Diego’s mom as well.
“It makes me feel really good about just how their relationship is," said Jennifer, "And it makes me feel like I did a good job of raising him.”