ANKENY, Iowa — As Ankeny Centennial sophomore Gabe Arredondo prepared to battle on the gridiron Thursday, his mother, Gunner Mate First Class expeditionary warfare specialist Diem Carpenter a seventeen year Navy veteran, was battling for freedom in Kuwait the last ten months. “The flag means a lot to me. She serves our county and I have nothing but respect for what she does to serve our country and sacrificing everything,” said Gabe. But mom called an audible of her own. “I actually texted him a couple of days ago and told him I won’t be home until next week,” she said.
Soon after the national anthem, Diem was armed with blockers of her own. “We gotta hide. He’s gonna see me isn’t he?” said Diem as she ducked behind another family member. The excitement reached a fever pitch when she sprinted to the goal, her son. “Oh baby,” exclaimed Diem as she embraced her son Gabe and gave him. The two sharing tears throughout the mother-son hug.
The emotional surprise and embrace was the ultimate pep talk for her son. He said, “I was totally surprised. I didn’t have any clue this was going to happen. I heard my mom’s name on the loudspeaker and I looked around and thought oh man. I definitely had a rush of emotion.”
As the American flag waved Thursday night, it was also the first time Gabe’s mother could wave to her son in person during a high school football game. “I missed all of last year and this is the first one I get to see,” said Diem.
Gabe may not remember his final stat line but he will never forget when mom came home. “It’s been a long time. I’m just glad I get to see my mom again.”
The last time the two saw each other was in December for four days before Diem left for her sixth deployment.