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Atmore mom surprises daughter at RPES

By By Adrienne McKenzie
Rachel Patterson Elementary School kindergartner Elizabeth Thames was blessed with a special surprise Wednesday when her mother Loretta Stevens walked into the school to see her for the first time since May.
Stevens has been in Iraq since the first week of May as a member of the National Guard and Thames was thrilled to see her mother when she walked into RPES, Thames' grandmother Jerridine Perryman said.
"She was very excited," Perryman said. "I tried to block her so she couldn't see her. She saw me and then saw her mom and screamed 'Mommy!'"
Stevens said it was a bittersweet moment for her when she saw her little girl.
"I was fighting tears back," she said. "I don't like to show emotion, but she got the best of me."
Stevens came back from Iraq Wednesday and one of her first stops was at her daughter's school. She said since it has been so long since she has seen her children, her heart was touched when she saw Thames.
"My heart just melted because it's been awhile since I've seen them," Stevens said. "But, I talk to her on the phone when I can once a week."
Since Stevens got back to Atmore on Wednesday she said it's been difficult to rest, but she's enjoying her time at home with her family.
"I've been trying to rest, but it's hard," she said. "People call and visit and Elizabeth wants to play constantly. I'm happy to spend some time here right now because you never know what will happen with going back."
Stevens is scheduled to leave for Iraq on Oct. 19 and hopes to return back to Atmore in April or May of 2008. She has been in the National Guard for 21 years this February. She said she joined the National Guard 21 years ago because of the challenges.
"I was more of the tomboy type and I needed the challenge," she said.
Stevens has two children other than Thames, Maurtez Stevens and Marco Jones. She is married to John Thames and is a member of Antioch Baptist Church where the Rev. Willie Smith is pastor.