Julie Lorraine was happy to have at least one of her two military daughters, Kelsey, back home in Stayton for the holidays.
She smiled as she took orders and wiped down tables Saturday afternoon in the family's BBQ restaurant, letting everyone know her 20-year-old was home from Fort Sam Houston, a U.S. Air Force base in San Antonio, Texas.
Eighteen-year-old Courtney, serving in the U.S. Army, couldn't make it.
That's when her husband, Jason — who served four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan before retiring from the Army in 2016 — and nephew Christopher Kinn lugged a large, brightly wrapped Christmas present into Squatchy's dining room.
Jason told her it was a “gift from the community,” which was believable after the rough year they'd had and all the help friends and strangers had given them.
Julie and Jason opened Squatchy's BBQ Sept. 15 after a fire destroyed their food cart in July.
Friends raised $28,704 through a Go Fund Me drive, including money from military families worldwide who were touched by their story.
As Julie started to open the gift, she joked with friends and patrons that it might be a grill, or maybe a cat.
Instead, out popped Courtney.
The Army unit supply specialist wrapped her arms around her crying mother and sister. It was Courtney's first time seeing the restaurant, which was built while she was at basic training.
Courtney deploys next month and this was her only chance to take leave.
“I didn’t know when I was going to come home, so I thought it would be a good time to surprise my mom.”
Moving around a lot as part of a military family, Courtney is the only sibling born in Oregon. Kelsey was born in California and Ryan, their 15-year-old brother, was born in Washington.
Now all three are reunited for Christmas.
“When the kids are at home, you’re like 'when are they going to move out?' But when they’re both gone, it’s hard,” Julie said. "You’re so used to seeing them every single day of your life.”
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