Windsor girls basketball player reunites with Air Force mom before game
December 21, 2013
"That's my mom!"
Those words summed up what turned out to be an unforgettable early Christmas present for Ashlynn Serrano-Quinlan, a ninth-grader at Windsor High School.
Ashlynn, 14, a member of the Wizards' girls basketball C-team, was huddling with her teammates before the game Friday night against Greeley Central in Windsor, listening to her coach Alejandra McGee when she looked across the gym and spotted her mom standing at the door.
Ashlynn yelled out the three words, ran over to her mom, Cynthia Quinlan, and gave her the biggest hug that a girl her age could give as the fans in the stands stood on their feet and applauded.
Cynthia, 33, hugged her daughter tightly as the two reunited with one another for the first time since two days in September when Ashlynn watched her mother graduate from basic training at Fort Sam in San Antonio.
"I was shocked," Ashlynn said. "This is really special."
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With practically everyone in the gym in tears, Cynthia said seeing her daughter's reaction was special.
"It was awesome. There was no better feeling," Cynthia said. "I can't even describe it. Everybody should experience that excitement."
Cynthia, who is a medic first responder in the Air Force, was supposed to meet Ashlynn later in the night at Denver International Airport, but she changed her flight so she could watch her play basketball for the one and only time this season. Cynthia will be with her family — husband, Sean, 32; daughters Ashlynn and Danielle, 12; and sons William, 10, and Brayden, 4 — for only 13 days in Windsor before she returns to San Antonio until April 1, and then to an undisclosed location until July 2014. She'll then return to Windsor full time with Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora as her home base.
It's been a crazy year for the Quinlans. There was a time for two months when Sean and Cynthia were away from the kids because of military duties, and the four kids were in Indiana with family.
Sean, who grew up in Windsor and graduated from Windsor High School in 2000, served 10 years in the Marines, three years in the Air Force and will begin working Monday as an aircraft mechanic for the Wyoming Air National Guard in Cheyenne, Wyo. Sean left for Afghanistan and Southwest Asia in May for four months, working as a crew chief for C-130 aircraft, while Cynthia left for San Antonio in July for basic training.
"This is huge. I haven't seen the boys or Danielle since July," said Cynthia, a 1999 Rocky Mountain High School graduate from Fort Collins. "Ashlynn was the only one that made it out to San Antonio for my graduation. Nothing is more important than family. It's been a long year. I missed the whole high school experience for Ashlynn. I missed the whole middle school experience this year for Danielle, and I missed the beginning of fifth grade for William."
Sean said staying at home with the kids this fall while Cynthia was at basic training was a way to see the other side of each other's world.
"I'm always coming and going. Now I got to switch and she got to see what it's like not to see the kids," Sean said.
Windsor girls basketball coach Gary Perko said it was special to surprise Ashlynn.
"She always has a smile on her face," Perko said. "She's just a great kid with a great attitude."