THE PLAYERS Championship (TPC), along with Operation Shower, hosts an event for expectant military moms during TPC Military Appreciation Day on May 8 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Eusebia Zorrilla was picked to be a recipient this year, but her soon to be bundle of joy had other plans.

Zorrilla was happy to be considered as a recipient for Operation Shower at this year’s TPC, but for the health of her baby she would have to be induced on May 3, five days before the event.

Once TPC and Operation Shower representatives found out she could not participate, they decided to find a way to still surprise Zorrilla and her family with the return home of her husband, AO1 Cecilio Zorrilla before the baby’s arrival. Petty Officer Zorrilla is assigned to USS Iwo Jima (LHD-7). The ship is currently on deployment, so arrangements would have to be made to get him back to Florida.

“At first I didn’t know what Operation Shower was. My supervisor contacted me at my office while we were deployed and asked me to come to his office ASAP,” he said.

“Man, I thought I was in trouble or something. Just the way he asked me to go to his office suggested I was,” he continued.

“I get to his office and he said, ‘You’re going home for Operation Shower.’ At that moment, I’m thinking what is Operation Shower? So he proceeded and asked me to go see Command Master Chief Ervin Byrd that morning. He clarified everything that was about to happen.

He further explained what Operation Shower was and all the benefits it brings.”

Petty Officer Zorrilla had not seen his family since he left for deployment and his family was completely unaware that he would be coming home.

But thanks to TPC, Operation Shower, Navy Region Southeast and his chain of command, he was able to reunite with his family for the birth of their fourth child. The event was even more special to the Zorrilla family because not only was the Sailor home, but he was home before the new baby arrived.

“This family was identified and nominated through the Operation Shower program, as a result of their Sailor being deployed,” said Navy Region Southeast’s Family Emergency Management/Individual Augmentee Family Support Program Coordinator Kandi Debus. “After I received calls from Cathie Hurlbert, the director of Charitable and Military Outreach for the PGA Tour, that TPC wanted to host a reunion, we looked for spouses close to their due date so that, if we are able to pull it off, their Sailor makes it home for the birth.”

“As the Navy’s Operation Shower coordinator, I collected all nominations for submission to the events,” she continued. “These events are important as they recognize the sacrifices military families make every day. They show our families that their sacrifices are acknowledges and appreciated. They let them know we appreciate them.”

The Zorrilla family met the requirements and all the pieces fell into place. Debus, Hurlbert and Zorrilla’s command arranged for his wife and children Jadalyn, Julio, and Jennyleah, 14, 12, and 8 respectively, to come to Navy Region Southeast on May 1 for a baby shower since the baby was arriving early. The family arrived and were presented with gifts, including a playpen, carrier seat and box with numerous baby items. Then at the end, Petty Officer Zorrilla walked in to surprise his whole family. Later that week baby, Jecilia Zorrilla was born.

“Being able to make it to see the birth of my child and to be the supporting rock for my wife and our other children during this time was priceless,” said Petty Officer Zorrilla.

“Words can’t accurately describe the amount of gratitude I feel for the opportunity TPC and its incredible team of professionals gave my family and me.”

When asked the hardest thing about being away from home, he replied, “The hardest thing, especially when your significant other is expecting, is to read about the bad days she’s had because of pain or not being able to do things around the house like she used to before she was pregnant. Also, the ‘I miss you’ from your children. It takes a toll on not just me, but on every Sailor and their families. Needless to say, it is all for our freedom!”

He added, “I want to thank Rear Adm. Bette Bolivar for her hospitality and for letting us use her facility to surprise my family. CMC Byrd, Kandi Debus and her husband, Cathie Hurlbert, John Flash and his wife, Jim and Tabitha Furyk, and everyone who made this wonderful experience possible.”

Operation Shower was founded in 2007. It began with the idea that we should be doing more to acknowledge the families who serve our country, and to specifically recognize the women and moms-to-be experiencing pregnancies while their partners are deployed. The Shower in a Box was born.

For more information about Operation Shower, visit https://operationshower.org/.