Army Spc. Albert “Joey” Daghita and his wife Brittany will never forget Saturday night.
Joey, who just returned from his third tour of duty in Kuwait, surprised Brittany on the ice at First Arena during an Elmira Jackals game as part of the Ziff Law Firm’s very popular Veterans of the Game program.
About 3,000 hockey fans cheered for the happy couple and thousands more have seen the news reports about the touching moment when Brittany turns around to find Joey on the ice with her.
That moment gave me chills – no pun intended!
Joey and Brittany were married last May but have been apart since September, when Joey returned to Kuwait.
One of our outstanding paralegals, Annette Viselli Thorne, who makes sure an active-duty military member or veteran is saluted at every Jackals home game in the Veterans of the Game program, coordinated the top-secret reunion.
Here is how Annette and her friends at First Arena pulled off the surprise of a lifetime for Brittany:
Brittany was told that she would be recognized during Saturday’s Jackals game against the South Carolina Stingrays. She was brought out on the ice between the first and second periods, and as the public address announcer talked about her life as a military wife, Joey snuck up behind her in his camouflage uniform and surprised her.
The crowd of 3,000 fans, including about 25 of their relatives and friends, went wild.
Joey, 22, told the news media he was very nervous. “I didn’t know how she was going to react. My heart was beating a thousand beats a minute.”
“Mine was, too,” Brittany, 23, added.
Annette had a few tense moments earlier in the day when Joey was delayed getting home from Fort Rucker in Alabama.
Joey finally arrived at the Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport north of Ithaca early Saturday evening and had a state trooper deliver him to First Arena. The original plan, for Brittany to drop the opening puck and get surprised, was moved back one period.
But it all went off perfectly once Joey was in the arena.
The Ziff Law Firm wishes Brittany and Joey a lifetime of happiness together. They return together to Fort Rucker on March 15.
I want to thank Annette, who exemplifies the compassionate, hard-working, community-focused folks with whom I work on a daily basis!
Annette had a great time bringing the young couple together and had this to say today: “To be part of such a wonderful homecoming was one of the most heartwarming events I have ever participated in,” she said. “Our law firm is a business, but our caring for our community continues after 5 p.m. every day. And I am so thankful I get to be part of what we do!”
Our thanks to Annette and the people at the arena, who pulled off the surprise perfectly!
See some great local news reports here and here and here.
If you know an active-duty military member home on leave, or a veteran to be saluted during a Jackals game, send Annette an email at email@example.com or call her at 607-733-8866. To learn more about the program, click here.
Thanks for reading!