When asked what they want for Christmas, most children can rattle off a list of the newest and coolest toys a mile long, but for eight-year-old Autumn Wildes, her list is quite different. The one thing that she wanted more than anything this year was for her daddy to come home and she made sure to put in a special request with Santa for it to happen.
Autumn’s father, 1st class Petty Officer Dennis Wildes, is a 15-year Navy veteran who is stationed in Japan as a Sonar Technician; it has been a year since he has made it back to the States. Although she had known for a few weeks that he would get to come home for a short visit at Christmas, Autumn thought it would be Friday morning (Dec. 21) before he arrived. Little did she know that by lunchtime Thursday at Upson-Lee South Elementary, she would be reunited with the man she calls the “best Christmas present ever!”
The Times was in on the surprise and was able to talk with Autumn beforehand, all the while keeping the secret that her Christmas present was coming early.
“I told him that I was going to scream and jump all over him,” said Autumn with a smile when asked what was the first thing she would do when she saw her father. “He told me he hopes that I never get too old to do that, too.”
Thanks to technology, Autumn has been able to Skype with her dad a few times while he has been overseas, giving them the chance to talk face to face through the computer. And while that has helped bridge the distance between them, there is nothing quite like being in the same room with the ones you love. The visit will be a quick one, just four days, but Autumn said she is just grateful that she is going to get to see him. Not to mention she is excited, very excited.
“Knowing he will be here soon feels just unexplainable. I think this is the most excited I have ever been, to the moon and back, that’s how excited I am!”
While her daddy is home, Autumn has plans for them to go shopping, ride bikes and just enjoy spending time with him, her two brothers and sister and the rest of her family. Dennis Wildes will be stationed in Japan for three more years and while his daughter misses him terribly while he is gone, she is very proud he is serving our country and keeping everyone safe.
“I am very proud of him for fighting and keeping everyone safe and free,” said Autumn. “I love that he has a big heart and can fit anyone in.”