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Valley soldier surprises mother with visit home

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The mother of an Arizona soldier got quite a surprise Wednesday morning.

When Teri Shelton came from to the Cantina Laredo restaurant in Scottsdale, she thought she was accepting an award for her daughter from a travel club the two belong to.

Shelton’s daughter, Jennifer Patzke, is an Army Communications Specialist, who is currently stationed at an undisclosed location in southwest Asia. That’s where Shelton thought Patzke was as she spoke to her on the phone while she tried to accept the award. As dozens of people and members of the media listened on a speaker phone, Patzke told her mother not to accept the award.
When her mother asked why, Patzke stepped into the room and shouted “Because I’ll take it!”

Shelton can’t believe that her daughter was home.

“I’m speechless,” she said, fighting back tears. “I don’t know what to say. I don’t know who knew about it. I’m shocked.”

The reunion was a couple of months in the making. One person who was involved in making it happen was Dawn Wilson of Show Low, who became a friend of Shelton’s after Wilson’s son was critically injured in 2005. Shelton took time off of her job with the state to help Wilson’s family through the recovery process while her son was in Phoenix Children’s Hospital. The son is now 12-years-old and has recovered.

Vivian Gibson, Patzke’s grandmother, picked Patzke up at Sky Harbor and said they almost blew the surprise when they arrived at the restaurant.

“As we were pulling into the parking lot, her mother was wandering around outside when she was supposed to be in here,” said Gibson. “We had to duck everybody down because we almost blew it and we were right at the very end!”

Patzke said that this is the second time that she tried to surprise her mom with a visit while being deployed somewhere for the Army.

“The last time, we were at my grandmother’s house,” she said. “She had already found out that I was here. It was my birthday, and she called to my work and tried to arrange for an edible arrangement to be sent to me. They told her that I was going to be in Arizona that weekend, so that’s how she found out!”

Patzke is on leave for two weeks, and already has big plans. The family is planning to attend the Arizona Cardinals game against the San Francisco 49ers on Oct. 29th.