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A welcome surprise for Farmington girl

Cpl. Michael Ybarra took an overnight flight to Minnesota, then hid in the basement so he could surprise his daughter, Alyssandra, at her preschool class Friday.

It took Alyssandra Ybarra a few seconds to spot the special visitor at the back of her classroom last Friday afternoon. When she finally did, a smile spread across her face that likely didn’t go far for the rest of the day. Maybe longer.

“Daddy!” she said, then ran to embrace the father she hadn’t seen in person for nine months.

Marine Cpl. Michael Ybarra had snuck into the back of the preschool classroom at Meadowview Elementary School as part of a group of parents there to see their children perform some of the songs they had learned. After they finished the last one — a song called See You Later Alligator, performed to the tune of Clementine — Alyssandra turned around and, with a little help, discovered him there.

Cpl. Ybarra spent the past nine months on a ship in the Pacific, conducting training exercises in Greece, Kuwait and elsewhere. He’d talked to his family on Skype, and even attended on of Alyssandra’s class parties through the video-phone service. But he was anxious to see his family in person once again. He returned to the family’s home in Camp Pendleton, Calif., May 29 and immediately boarded a plane for Minnesota, where his wife, Sarah, had been living with her in-laws. He hid in the basement last Friday morning while Alyssandra was getting ready for school. Then he got to meet the newest member of his family, his 3-month-old son.

“He actually likes me, which is nice,” Ybarra said.

That afternoon, he finally got to have the reunion he was waiting for. He worked with the Farmington School District’s Community Education office to arrange the surprise.

For Cpl. Ybarra the moment was both thrilling and frightening. The last time he came home from a long deployment, it took his daughter a few weeks to warm up to him. This time, things were different. Asked what she wanted to do with her dad now that he was home, Alyssandra just hugged him tighter.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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