Soldier father surprises son at Cleveland school after year apart

Army Specialist Michael Norris and son, Zacaree, 6, were reunited on Wednesday, May 15, after a year-long separation.

By Vanesa Brashier, editor@bluebonnetnews.com

After a year-long separation, Army Specialist Michael Norris was reunited with his 6-year-old son, Zacaree, during a school assembly at Southside Elementary School in Cleveland on Wednesday, May 15.

Since the beginning of the school year last August, Zacaree has lived with his grandparents, Cliff and Beth Moss, in Cleveland, while the Norris family worked through Michael’s numerous reassignments by the U.S. Army.

With the family stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska, for the past year, Michael said they made a decision to send Zacaree to live with his grandparents until they were settled at their next base, which was supposed to have taken place months ago.

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“There were extenuating circumstances. We were supposed to move in March but that didn’t happen. The Army changed my orders five times before I was finally reassigned to Fort Carson, Colo.,” Michael said.

Zacaree’s mom, Kirsten, said it was a difficult decision to leave her son with his grandparents but she knew he would have the comfort of knowing that his grandmother, Beth, was with him as she is the school nurse.

“The schools are better here. At the school in Anchorage, he was behind and struggling with his numbers. When he got here, he began to excel. Military kids can lose a month to a month and a half during moves, and we didn’t want him getting further behind,” she said. “We wanted him to go ahead and get the full year and not miss anything.”

The Norris family is confident they made the right decision for their son.

“He has been doing great this year. His teacher has been awesome with him,” said Kirsten.

The reunion on Wednesday was an opportunity for Zacaree to see his brother, Kobee, 4, and his newborn sister, Ella Mae, 3 months, and to meet the family’s new puppy.

“We found out I was pregnant right after he left for Texas. He told me if he had another brother, he was going to sell him for a dollar,” Kirsten said with a laugh.

Now that the family is back together, they are looking forward to spending the next few days swimming, visiting family members in the area and playing with the family’s new pet before moving on to life in Colorado.

“I am planning to reenlist for another four-year term. That will put me at the 10-year mark. Depending on how I feel about the career at the time, I will reenlist in the Army or join the Air Force,” Michael said.

Texas will always be home though and they plan to move back once Michael’s military career is at an end. His parents, Tommy and Connie Norris, live in the New Waverly area. Beth’s other parents, Sallie and Jeff Campbell, and sister, Emily, live in the Conroe area.

“All of our family is from this area, so we will eventually move back home to Texas. We haven’t really decided where we will live but I expect it will be in the Coldspring area or somewhere nearby,” he said.

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