Girls Find Scavenger Hunt Surprise at Louis Joliet Mall: Daddy!

Aaron Haines, a 1st Class Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, hoisted his two girls into his arms during an emotional homecoming party Friday at Louis Joliet Mall.

Two little girls were frolicking merrily on a scavenger hunt with their stepmother.

When they arrived at the security desk inside the Louis Joliet Mall on Friday night to pick up their last clue, they were directed to the food court. And they were told to look for something special.


Aaron Haines, 31, a 1st Class Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, emerged from his hiding place inside Sbarro’s Pizza and surprised his two daughters, Maria, 8, and Erin, 7, at a welcome home party to kick off Memorial Day weekend. He spent the last 18 months serving as an electrician aboard the USS John S. McCain destroyer stationed at Yokosuka, Japan.

While he regularly spoke to his family via Skype, he otherwise was separated by oceans from his loved ones—literally.

“Well, it means a lot because I haven’t seen any family in a long time,” said Haines.

He wiped tears from his eyes after his daughters jumped into his arms and the three embraced as a crowd in the mall’s food court erupted. The surprise homecoming party was arranged by Haines’ wife, Cassie, at a midway point between two families.

She has been staying with her parents in Twin Lakes, Wis. Haines’ first wife, Jennifer, lives in Fairview, Ill., a small town located about an hour south of Joliet off of Interstate-55.

“Yeah, I was the one who set it up, but they haven’t seen their dad in so long I figured I owed that much to both of them,” Cassie Haines said. “So, I have a lot of emotions going through my head right now.”

One of the emotions Haines was feeling was one of relief. Her husband came home alive—at least for the time being. Aaron visited with his parents in Saugerties, N.Y., on the first leg of his two-week furlough. He returns to Japan on June 1.
“It is Memorial Day weekend,” Cassie Haines said. “And, yeah, I know there are a lot of families who would love to have this kind of moment. I know exactly how they feel because I’ve been going over a year myself without him here.

“Just to be able to pull this off for my step-daughters means the world to me. And just to have him here—even if it is for a short time—you want to take advantage of it because you don’t get another chance like this.”

Haines has served 12 years in the Navy and already has completed two tours of Iraq, including one as a part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He plans to put another eight years in before retiring to civilian life.

Of course, he knows not to take anything for granted.

“I know a few who haven’t made it home—accidents or whatever or else,” he said. “My heart goes out to them. "As much as I love the fact I’m able to see my girls, it’s good to know people are out there wishing everybody a happy Memorial Day. It’s more about the people who haven’t been able to make it back.”
truthbetold May 25, 2013 at 02:28 PM
TEARS!!! So happy for this family
scr May 25, 2013 at 04:32 PM
Very touching story but this line in the story jumped out at me: "Her husband came home alive—at least for the time being." Why would a reporter write that?!
Kathy B. May 25, 2013 at 04:42 PM
Wonderful story. Welcome home Aaron Haines and thank you for your service to our country.
Denise Williams May 25, 2013 at 06:26 PM
scr - the sentiment is one felt by every family who welcomes home their service member and is entirely appropriate, particularly given the next quote- “It is Memorial Day weekend,” Cassie Haines said. “And, yeah, I know there are a lot of families who would love to have this kind of moment." Every military family thinks this way. Every 'welcome home' is a celebration, but there is an element of fear as well; fear the next time they 'welcome home' their loved one, it won't be a joyous occasion. For this young woman to recognize and acknowledge this, for her to remind us this day of joy for her family comes on the weekend of somber reflection that is Memorial Day is a testament to her character. I thank the reporter for including it and not sugar-coating the story. In my opinion, it makes the entire article more poignant and meaningful.
NavyWifeHaines May 29, 2013 at 07:21 AM
Hi, this is Cassie Haines, I'm sitting here with my husband Aaron and his two daughters Maria and Erin. We love all your comments and thank you for the kind words. We know it's the middle of the week but we hope everyone had a great memorial day weekend as we enjoyed ours and have enjoyed having Aaron home as long as we have. We start the countdown for October next! Thanks again!


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