Bango helps returning soldier surprise kids

MILWAUKEE — U.S. Army SPC Nicholas Neumuth hadn’t seen his kids since May 2012.

So upon returning from a nine-month tour of duty in Afghanistan, Neumuth thought he’d make the return from his first overseas deployment since joining the Army nearly two years ago a memorable one.

During the first timeout in Saturday’s game between the Milwaukee Bucks and Oklahoma City Thunder, the Waukesha, Wis., native stood alongside the Bucks’ mascot as his 12-year-old stepdaughter Alexa and 5-year-old son Max believed they were participating in a blindfolded game of hot and cold with Bango. The game led the kids to Bango — with Neumuth close by — waiting for a hug when the blindfolds came off.

“You see it all the time on YouTube, and when I was in Afghanistan I saw a couple of recent ones at college football games,” Neumuth told “I knew when we were coming back and looking at the schedules, and I just asked the Bucks if they were interested in helping me out. They were more than happy to.

“My heart was beating out of my chest just thinking about it. I’ve come back to the airport before and my son was all giddy with a complete smile.”

Neumuth is back in Wisconsin for a month before he will head to Fort Hood in Texas. He’s planning on taking Alexa on a trip to the Mall of America in Minneapolis and heading to Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., with Max.

“Individual trips so I can spend individual time with them,” Neumuth said. “It’s nice having both of them, but you need that one-on-one time with them, too.

“It’s all I look forward to. Now that I’m back (in the United States), it gets expensive but I try to come back for as many four-day weekends as I can to see my kids.”

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