Palatine sailor comes home after nearly 15 month deployment, surprises daughter at school

PALATINE, Ill. (WLS) -- When one northwest suburban sailor deployed oversees, the world was a different place. There was no COVID-19.

Now, he's back from duty, with a homecoming surprise for his 5-year-old daughter.

"My dad is in the Navy," said kindergartener Naomi Otachel. When her father left for deployment nearly 15 months ago, the world was a different place. No masks, no social distancing, no inkling of a life changing pandemic.

But after more than a year overseas, Naomi's dad, Naval Petty Officer 1st Class Conrad Otachel is finally back home.

"I wish my daddy was here," Naomi Otachel said as she read a paragraph about her father outside of St. Thomas of Villanova school in Palatine.

While she was reading, her father stepped out of the school and stood behind her. She had no idea he was there.

"Naomi, sometimes God helps dreams come true," said Principal Mary Brinkman. "Why don't you turn around."

Shocked silence as Naomi turned around and saw her dad. Then, "Dad's back?" she said as the crowd laughed, clapped and watched as she and her father hugged for the first time in more than a year.

Officer Otachel just wrapped up a two week quarantine on top of his tour.

"Ah, my little munchkin," Otachel said. "I haven't seen my little girl for so long kids this age, 15 months it's a big difference.

And it wasn't just a surprise for Naomi. It was also a surprise for her dad, signs dedicated to him and flags all over the school.

A sailor serves with heart, with valor, with distinction.

But when this sailor saw his child for the first time in person in more than a year, all plaudits were stripped away and what was left is pure joy. Love.

"Just her voice, it melts your heart," he said.

"My heart was melting, her face, she just couldn't believe it," said Marlleny Otachel, Naomi's mother.

A family renewed, rejoicing, and reunited.

"The one that you can lean on is back, so I was just glad," Otachel said.
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