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It was exciting and very personal, almost intimate – a moment coming very unexpectedly at the end of an ordinary day. My school duty at the end of the day got suddenly switched from standing outside for parent pick up for the children, to herding a batch of bus riders ages K thru 2nd grade into the gymnasium to await bus 7. A switch that allowed me to be witness to a special vignette I would not have wanted to miss.

My partner in the bus kid team was a gal named “Liz” who finally got the noisy batch of home-goers almost settled to wait – when, suddenly Liz screamed excitedly and ran fast across the wide gym floor, flinging herself into the arms of a very tall young man dressed in full military desert fatigues. We all watched that doorway, kids and adults alike.

“It’s her son back from the military”, informed a small child, fingers in his mouth in the drama of the moment.

No one was more surprised than Liz! She had apparently been told her son, serving in the Air Force, would not have leave in the US until at least July, and would miss his brother’s graduation. Then this son, kept the secret that he would be home in time, after all, and totally surprised the whole family. Liz hugged him for a long time, while we all watched, then returned to her bus duty, tears streaming down her face. We adults all were misty, too.

“He came home in time for the graduation,” sniffed Liz in pure joy. “He didn’t tell anyone. Now we can have a family picture together!”

I gave my soggy bus partner a hug and blessed her family time. Then I left in my car and drove home, very uplifted and in awe of being included in this precious moment. Witnessing this intimate family moment for a co-worker made me realize that seeing these young soldiers come home is like a special moment for me, too. I did not know this young man, but he is home safe, after fighting in a very dangerous place for me and for my country, and my gratitude for his safe return to his family was very real. Her son is home safe.

May they all be safe. God bless our troops!