Welcome home a surprise
By RANDY GONZALES
She wanted to surprise him. He wanted to surprise her. As it turned out, they both were surprised.
Friends and family gathered late Tuesday night to welcome home Hays resident Mike Bliss, who completed his third deployment overseas. A member of the Army Reserves, Bliss has been in Qatar since October with the 391st Medical Logistics Corps.
He was scheduled to arrive back in Hays today, and his wife, Andrea, wanted to throw a surprise welcome home party. Mike Bliss found out he was getting back Tuesday evening, and suggested to a friend they surprise his wife instead.
Sheila Delzeit, who served with Mike Bliss in the Army Reserves and was deployed with him, also is a friend of Andrea's. She was all for turning the tables on Andrea and surprising her.
Delzeit and other friends kept Andrea occupied until Mike's plane touched down at approximately 10 p.m.
"It was fairly easy," Delzeit said. "Stressful, because I didn't want her to find out.
"I think she suspected a few times, but I had her talked out of it, I hope."
Mike Bliss arrived at the couple's house at 1410 Main first. He was surprised to see such a large gathering; approximately 40 friends and family were at the house, which had miniature flags staked on the front lawn and balloons tied to the front porch.
"I was shocked," he said. "Speechless. Don't even know what to say."
Approximately 10 minutes after Mike Bliss arrived, here came Andrea. Her best-laid plans went haywire, but she couldn't have been happier. She embraced her husband as the crowd applauded and cheered.
"I saw people, I saw the cars," she said. "I knew he was home."
Saving the best for last, the couple's daughter, Kamryn, came out of the house to greet daddy. Kamryn, 2, warmed up to her dad right away as he held her in his arms. Andrea used pictures and communicating on Skype to keep father and daughter as close as possible while he was away.
"It's very hard, especially with a 2-year-old, making sure she gets to talk to Daddy, remember who Daddy is," Andrea Bliss said. "It's tough, but we dealt with it."
Mike Bliss also has a stepdaughter, Keira, 5, who is in Colorado and couldn't be in Hays on Tuesday. He plans to get reacquainted with everyone now that he is back home.
This was Mike Bliss' third deployment, but the first two times he was single. Bliss, 29, has been in the Army Reserve for 13 years. If he stays, he likely will be deployed again.
"Now, with the family and everything, got to make some tough decisions," he said.
All that is for later. Tuesday night was about home, and coming home with a surprise twist for both husband and wife.
Andrea was going to surprise him, and was surprised, while Mike was surprised by the turnout.
"I had no idea this was going to happen," he said of the turnout. "She didn't have an idea."
Delzeit, who got out of the Army Reserves earlier this month and who plans to go to nursing school, said a welcome-home celebration is deserved and appreciated by those who serve overseas.
"It's amazing," Delzeit said. "It means so much, I can tell you. It just means so much to have your friends and family welcome you home.
"It means a lot, through and through, to the heart. It's so great to have people here care about you while you're gone, think about you while you're gone, just as much as you're thinking about them."
Delzeit was glad to be part of the surprise for Andrea and laughed at the thought of any "revenge" for the deception.
"I knew she was not going to be happy, but I was glad to take that chance," Delzeit said.
Mike Bliss, who grew up in WaKeeney, had his mother, Conni Bliss, in on the surprise, too.
"Mission accomplished," Conni Bliss said. "It was nerve-wracking."