Life can be extremely difficult for military families, as frequent deployments and other commitments can make family time very scarce. This was the case for one middle school girl who missed her father very much as he was deployed in South Korea. As Veterans Day approached, she wanted to see her dad more than anything, but she had no idea the surprise her teachers had in store for her.
A Nervous Moment
The middle school student got up in front of everyone to read and immediately started to regret it. Her voice cracked as she began reading into the microphone and though she tried to fight it, she felt tears coming to her eyes. She wasn’t sure how she’d get through the experience, but then, she heard a door open across the auditorium, and she got the surprise of a lifetime.
Bingham Middle School was planning its annual Veterans Day celebration, and Haley Webb was really excited. She was a member of the Bingham band, so she would get to perform at the assembly. There would be speeches and performances to help celebrate the sacrifices and hard work of the veterans and members of the United States Armed Forces.
One person that Haley was excited to tell about the impending Veterans Day celebration was her father, Sgt. First Class Jason Webb. He had been in the U.S. Army for years and had spent time in Iraq and more recently, Seoul, South Korea in multiple deployments. He had been gone for over a year and Haley really missed him.
The Big News
Haley was really excited to get on Skype and chat with her dad so that she could tell him all about the upcoming Veterans Day performance. Her dad said he was very proud and he wished he could be home for the trip. She asked if he might be able to get leave for the assembly, but he said it wouldn’t work out. She was still excited for the big day, however.
What A Privilege
The school’s principal, Brett Playter, knew that Haley was very patriotic and that Veterans Day meant a lot to her. As such, he decided to ask her if she’d like to have a special job at the ceremony. He wanted her to introduce a special guest; a service member who would be making an appearance at the school. She was honored, of course, and said “yes.”
The Big Day
When November 11 came, the school was ready for the assembly. The band had prepared and did a great job honoring the veterans and service members in attendance. Haley was bummed that her father couldn’t be there, but excited that her mom and other family members were present. After the band’s performance concluded, Haley had one more thing to do.
All Eyes On Her
The school’s principal, Mr. Playter, got up to speak before the school. This is when Haley knew that her own part of the show was arriving. She got up to walk toward the podium and Mr. Playter gave her a sheet of paper that she would need to read from as she introduced the special guest. When she got up in front of the school, she only had the chance to glance at the paper.
What’s Going On?
Haley was not a particularly suspicious person, but when she started to read the paper, she noticed some coincidences. She read that the guest had served 15 years with the U.S. Army, reaching the rank of a sergeant first class, which is what her father’s rank was. She started to wonder if something was going on after all.
A Wonderful Surprise
Haley started to realize that everything she was reading was describing her father. But it couldn’t be true, could it? After all, he’d said he wouldn’t be able to make it back for her assembly. Still, her emotions began to well up. She could tell that tears were coming to her eyes at the thought of her father, but just as she was about to cry, the door opened at the end of the gym.
A Magical Moment
Haley couldn’t believe it, but the man who had entered her gymnasium was her father. He strode confidently toward her and she couldn’t help but let her emotions spill out. Haley’s teachers and fellow students applauded as her father gave her a big hug. It was a very special moment for all in attendance, but especially Haley and her father.
“Are You Surprised?”
Sgt. Webb couldn’t help himself and asked his daughter, “Are you surprised?” Clearly, she was! She couldn’t tell him so, though, as she was still too emotional to speak. After a few moments, she gave the microphone to her father so that he could give a short speech to the students, teachers, and military guests in attendance about the sacrifices military members and their families must make.
Planning The Surprise
What Haley didn’t know is that her dad had been planning this for weeks. When they talked on Skype, he already knew that he had been given leave to return home and spend time with his family. He decided not to tell her and keep it a surprise, however. He wanted to make it a moment to remember, so he started to do a little planning.
They Needed An Idea
Sgt. Webb had already told his wife and the rest of the family about his plans, but he needed to contact someone inside the school to work on the rest. He called the principal, Mr. Playter, who liked the idea. “I’d seen reunions on television where a young boy or girl is throwing a pitch at a baseball game and the catcher is their father,” he said. “But we couldn’t have Sgt. Webb come into our assembly wearing a mask, so I came up with another idea.”
Best Day Ever
The plan worked to perfection, as Haley had no idea what was going on until she started reading the script Mr. Playter had given to her. “Halfway through, I kind of thought that it was him,” she later said. “I kept reading and I looked and he’s walking into the gymnasium. I couldn’t believe it. This is better than Christmas!”
Sgt. Webb said that he was excited to get some much-needed family time. He had a week of leave and he said that would spend all the time together. “Haley’s gone through tons of sacrifices,” Sgt. Webb said. “About the first six years of her life, I was pretty much deployed to Iraq. Now a year and a half of not seeing my daughter growing up.”