A surprise family reunion between a U.S. army sergeant deployed to Afghanistan and his family was one of the most memorable moments during Tuesday’s Rose Parade in Pasadena.
The reunion between Sgt. 1st Class Eric Pazz, his wife and their young son was coordinated by Natural Balance Pet Foods.
Sgt. Pazz and his wife, Miriam, spoke to KPCC's Tammy Trujillo. In order to get his family to show up at the parade, Pazz told his wife that he had entered — and won — a military spouse appreciation contest.
When she asked about the asked about the contest, the details he gave her were ... vague. Pazz said he'd change the subject as soon as possible.
"It was extremely difficult," he said.
The charade lasted a month. Miriam said he kept the secret well. She didn't suspect a thing.
"He did a pretty good job," she said. "It helps that the communication is a little hard sometimes."
Once he flew into the area, Pazz said he was kept on the opposite side of town to avoid an accidental run-in.
Once he saw his wife and son, Pazz said his heart started beating. He froze. He had to be prodded by someone else on the float to walk toward them.
"Everyone said afterwards that everyone was standing up and applauding and, honestly, I had no idea what was going on around me," he said. "Nothing was going on in my universe except seeing those two people."
Miriam said she recognized him immediately, even with the shades on, because she had seen him so many times in uniform.
"I was telling other people yesterday that I don't even remember who told me to turn around or what," she said.
Pazz will will stay with his family for about a week. He's set to come home — for good this time — in March, a detail that created a bit of confusion for his son.
"He just said 'I miss you, Daddy, I love you,'" the father said. "Immediately, he asked, 'Is it March already?'"
Being a part of the parade was an amazing thing for the whole family.
"It was definitely one of the most memorable moments of my life," Pazz said. "It ranks right up there with my wedding day, seing my son being born. ... It was truly a life altering event."
The reunited family will head back to Germany Saturday and then spend another day or so together. Pazz said they're going to focus on being together until he has to leave again and has to tell his son, who is still wondering if it's March.
"For the moment, he's just as happy as he can be that I'm here," said Pazz. "We're just going to focus on that until the day comes when I have to leave again."