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Airman returns home from deployment, surprises children

Alanna Aguirre, 5, throws the first pitch to her dad, Lt. Col. Paul Aguirre during the May 7, 2012, Diamondbacks game against the St. Louis Cardinals. Alanna and her brother, Jackson, 6, did not know their dad was posing as a Diamondbacks catcher. Colonel Aguirre traveled for three days following a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan to surprise his children in a homecoming event they will never forget. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Daryl Gladstein/Released)

Alanna Aguirre, 5, throws the first pitch to her dad, Lt. Col. Paul Aguirre during the May 7, 2012, Diamondbacks game against the St. Louis Cardinals. Alanna and her brother, Jackson, 6, did not know their dad was posing as a Diamondbacks catcher. Colonel Aguirre traveled for three days following a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan to surprise his children in a homecoming event they will never forget. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Daryl Gladstein/Released)

Maria Aguirre tears up as she sees her son, Lt. Col. Paul Aguirre, for the first time after his seven-month deployment to Kandahar, Afghanistan. Colonel Aguirre, who is the chief of staff with the 161st Air Refueling Wing, was greeted May 6, 2012, by friends and family at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Susan Gladstein/Released)

Maria Aguirre tears up as she sees her son, Lt. Col. Paul Aguirre, for the first time after his seven-month deployment to Kandahar, Afghanistan. Colonel Aguirre, who is the chief of staff with the 161st Air Refueling Wing, was greeted May 6, 2012, by friends and family at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Susan Gladstein/Released)

Lt. Col. Paul Aguirre, 161st Air Refueling Wing chief of staff, sends a greeting to his son Jackson, 6, and daughter Alanna, 5, on the JumboTron at Chase Field during the May 7, 2012, Diamondbacks game. Colonel Aguirre, with the help of the Diamondbacks, planned a surprise reunion following a seven-month deployment in Afghanistan. After Jackson and Alanna threw the first pitch, Colonel Aguirre – who was posing as a Diamondbacks catcher – revealed himself in front of 26,447 D-backs fans. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Susan Gladstein/Released)

Lt. Col. Paul Aguirre, 161st Air Refueling Wing chief of staff, sends a greeting to his son Jackson, 6, and daughter Alanna, 5, on the JumboTron at Chase Field during the May 7, 2012, Diamondbacks game. Colonel Aguirre, with the help of the Diamondbacks, planned a surprise reunion following a seven-month deployment in Afghanistan. After Jackson and Alanna threw the first pitch, Colonel Aguirre – who was posing as a Diamondbacks catcher – revealed himself in front of 26,447 D-backs fans. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Susan Gladstein/Released)

Family members welcome home Lt. Col. Paul Aguirre, 161st Air Refueling Wing chief of staff, at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport May 6, 2012, after his seven-month deployment to Kandahar, Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Susan Gladstein/Released)

Family members welcome home Lt. Col. Paul Aguirre, 161st Air Refueling Wing chief of staff, at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport May 6, 2012, after his seven-month deployment to Kandahar, Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Susan Gladstein/Released)

Lt. Col. Paul Aguirre, 161st Air Refueling Wing chief of staff, reveals himself to his children, Jackson and Alanna, after they threw the first pitch at the Diamondbacks game May 7, 2012. Jackson and Alanna thought their dad was still in Afghanistan where he had spent the last seven months serving with the Arizona Air National Guard. Colonel Aguirre and the Arizona Diamondbacks worked together via email while Colonel Aguirre was deployed to set up the surprise reunion. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Susan Gladstein/Released)

Lt. Col. Paul Aguirre, 161st Air Refueling Wing chief of staff, reveals himself to his children, Jackson and Alanna, after they threw the first pitch at the Diamondbacks game May 7, 2012. Jackson and Alanna thought their dad was still in Afghanistan where he had spent the last seven months serving with the Arizona Air National Guard. Colonel Aguirre and the Arizona Diamondbacks worked together via email while Colonel Aguirre was deployed to set up the surprise reunion. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Susan Gladstein/Released)

PHOENIX SKY HARBOR AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE -- Some of Lt. Col. Paul Aguirre's family members were missing from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport when he arrived home May 6, 2012, after traveling three days following an seven-month deployment to Kandahar, Afghanistan.

For the Arizona Air National Guardsman, his plans to reunite with his 6-year-old son Jackson, and 5-year-old daughter Alanna, would be one they - and 26,447 Diamondbacks fans -- would never forget.

The surprise began when Colonel Aguirre, who had attended every Diamondbacks opening day and final home game with his children up until his deployment, wrote a letter to the Diamondbacks from Afghanistan.

"For us it was a no-brainer," Arizona CEO and president Derrick Hall said. "When we got the letter, we wanted to do all we could."

During their regularly scheduled Thursday video chat, Colonel Aguirre told his son and daughter they had been chosen by the Diamondbacks to throw the first pitch before the May 7 game against the St. Louis Cardinals. During what would be their last video chat, Colonel Aguirre told Jackson and Alanna he'd be home soon and told them he'd be delivering a special video message to them during the game.

Alanna told her dad exactly what she wanted him to say on his video message that would be shown on the JumboTron and Colonel Aguirre took careful notes to be sure the message was just what she wanted it to be.

While on the mound, with thousands of Diamondback fans looking on, Colonel Aguirre appeared on screen with Alanna's carefully written speech to them.

"Alanna and Jackson, I love you guys so much. Sorry that I'm not going to be able to be there for when you throw your first pitch for the Diamondbacks," said Colonel Aguirre.

What Jackson and Alanna didn't know was that the man in the baseball uniform at home plate was not a Diamondbacks player, but instead their dad who was standing by to catch their pitches.

After Jackson and Alanna threw their pitches, the public-address announcer said, ""Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome home Lt. Col. Paul Aguirre," and crowd at Chase Field erupted with applause and cheers. As Colonel Aguirre removed the catcher's mask and revealed himself to Jackson and Alanna, they smiled as they ran to hug their dad.

Afterward, Alanna said, "I was thinking, 'That's Daddy, even when his mask was on.'" Jackson wasn't quite convinced although he said, "I didn't know it as my dad, even though he looks like him."

"I heard a little bit of the crowd reaction, but to be honest with you, I was just trying to control my own emotions," Colonel Aguirre said. 'It was kind of hard seeing them, because I hadn't seen them for eight months, almost. I had to kind of restrain myself. When I started walking out there, I was welling up with emotion."