Army Lt. Scheralda Brown-Small has attended every one of her teen daughter's choir concerts since grade school, but this year, she'll be missing the holiday concert at North Babylon High School.
Brown-Small, 49, departs for Afghanistan Monday. A professional social worker, she enlisted to help returning troops transition back to civilian life.
She's embraced the challenge and sacrifice that comes with the service, but it's still hard for her to face leaving her family.
So when she showed up at daughter Alexis' choir practice Thursday afternoon to watch her sing one last time before leaving, it was an emotional surprise for both mom and daughter.
Alexis wiped away tears as she saw her mother enter the school auditorium in her uniform.
"I don't want her to leave," Alexis said later. "I want her to stay."
But, said her mother, "We're all committed to doing what we can, when we can."
The high school choir, moved by Brown-Small's sacrifice, put on a special performance for the Army lieutenant, serenading her with a selection of the songs it will perform at the concert later this month.
Tears rolled down Brown-Small's cheeks as she listened and reflected on spending a year away from her daughter, husband and three other children.
"The gift the choir gave me is one I will not forget," Brown-Small said.
Afterward, some in the choir offered hugs and thanks to the woman giving up so much.
"I am so proud of her," said Alexis Small. "It's because she didn't have to do it but she did do it."