EAST GREENWICH, R.I. (WPRI) — It was just another ballet lesson for 4-year-old Celia DeFelice on Oct. 20. That is, until a familiar face made it one to remember.
Navy Reservist LT Arthur DeFelice surprised his daughter with a big hug after he returned from a 14-month deployment in Africa.
“I was in East Africa, Djibouti, which is a country just north of Somalia,” the Lincoln native said Monday. “A lot different from home.”
In his seven years of being a Navy Reservist, this was DeFelice’s first deployment. On that day, he wasted no time returning to his young family, going straight from the airport to the dance studio.
“I was kind of scanning the crowd of little girls, they were all dressed the same, and I think we kind of realized it at the same time that I was there,” he recalled. “She didn’t kind of know what she should do, asked for permission first, made sure it was OK, allowed first, and then ran over.”
“I had the unique perspective of seeing Celia in the mirrors and Arthur at the same time. It was really special,” his wife Shana added.
Their daughter Evelyn was just 11 months old when Arthur left last September. She’s now 2 years old. The family counted down the days by planting more than 400 flags in their front yard. DeFelice had only seen his growing family during a brief visit in Europe and another over the summer.
Now the family of four – soon to be five – has this lasting memory and a Veterans Day weekend together they won’t soon forget.
“Those pictures and that video is something we can have together as they grow up,” Arthur said.
The family said it wasn’t easy getting through those 14 months apart but they credit their family and friends for helping them through. They also said they’re grateful to the other military members for their service this Veterans Day.