Holiday Homecoming at San Diego Zoo

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After nearly ten months in Afghanistan, Staff Sergeant Adan Mancilla of the California Army National Guard took the San Diego Zoo’s stage during one of today’s animal presentation shows to surprise his family with a holiday homecoming.

San Diego Zoo guests gathered around Joan Embery’s Front Street Stage for what they thought would be a typical show with the Zoo’s animal ambassadors; little did they know that it would be the setting for a very different type of interaction – a surprise for Staff Sergeant Mancilla’s children. Seven-year-old Luciano, 5-year-old Lyonel and 2-year-old Lucero didn’t think their father would be home for the holidays, so the staff sergeant and his wife decided to grant them their Christmas wish at their favorite family getaway.

Mancilla’s sons, Luciano and Lyonel, were on stage for an up-close encounter with Rico the toucan when they were asked to stay on stage for one more special encounter. Staff Sergeant Mancilla came up behind the boys, and when they turned around, their father was there with open arms and a smile on his face. Lucero, who was only 1 year old when she last saw her father, yelled “Papa” and ran onstage to join the reunion.