MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minnesota National Guard has just over 13,000 active soldiers and airmen. Of course, they’re not the only ones who feel the effects of deployment. Their families do, too.

“Whether he’s far away in another country or in another state or at Camp Ripley, it feels the same to them. He’s gone,” said Trisha Wohlfeil.

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Each time her husband, Senior Master Sergeant Greg Wohlfeil, is gone for an extended period, whether on a training mission or deployment, each member of the family gets a special date when he returns.

“Part of it is about being intentional of getting together with your family members after being gone for a period of time,” Greg said.

There was no exception when Greg returned home last month. As he has in the past, his 10-year-old son, Braden, chose to go to the trampoline park and asked to also have a game of laser tag.

His daughter Annalise picked a date for tea. It was a tradition her parents realized was a special memory to her when she wrote about it in school.

These last few weeks, The Avalon Tea Room had been too busy to get a reservation, so 8-year-old Annalise had to wait. Or so she thought.

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The Wohlfeil family enlisted the help of her teacher to pull off the surprise. Annalise was called to the office, but instead of seeing the principal, she saw her dad, who asked her to tea.

Princess Annalise changed into her special tea time dress, cape, tiara and jewelry for the occasion. With a beautiful spread of sandwiches, scones and pastries, they enjoyed their tea time.

Knowing this is a special tradition, Ellie Kilgore, owner of The Avalon Tea Room treated the Wohlfeil family to tea. She remembers their past visits and understands their family’s pride in service.

“I am just so pleased to be able to have him come in here,” Kilgore said. “It is an honor for me, really. My son is also in the Air Force, to me it’s just a special thing for my heart.”

With 20 years of service in the Air Force, Greg knows he’s not the only one in his family who’s made sacrifices. Tea time is one way he gets to say thank you.

“It’s just our special time to connect and to give my time to her,” Greg said. “This tea room is just wonderful. In fact, I’ve challenged other commanding officers to do similar activities with their families.”

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One way to say thank you to local service members is to support the Minnesota Military Family Foundation. It provides financial assistance to families serving our country. You’ll find ways to help at WCCO.com/AccomplishMN.