TENNERTON — There was no better way to start off this patriotic week than a soldier reuniting with his family. Monday morning at Tennerton Elementary School, a big surprise was waiting for first grader Kara Hildreth, as she was unaware that her dad had just made an early and unexpected return from his six-month deployment in Romania.
Captain Michael Hildreth of the Army National Guard was elated to finally be back with his family. Hildreth specializes as a Physician Assistant in the 1092nd Engineer String. His wife Lisa explained, “As a Physician Assistant, his deployments are shorter, thankfully. His time in Romania made it six months since he last saw his family in person. He actually returned early Saturday morning around 1a.m. and surprised me. I was not expecting him to arrive earlier than what was planned.”
Hildreth’s daughter, Kara, was thrilled to extend a very heart-warming welcome home to her father. Just before the surprise reunion, her mom laughed as she said, “My mother dropped my daughter off at school this morning and she thinks Dad’s coming home later tonight and she’ll get to take tomorrow off from school.”
Principal Tristen Gray and school staff were more than obliged to help with the surprise and welcome Cpt. Hildreth back home. Gray talked about how wonderfully everything came together. “We honestly thought his arrival would possibly be later in the week or even next week because of the weather from the hurricane in North Carolina. We received word from Lisa that he was actually arriving Friday and it worked out so well because we just had new playground equipment installed on Thursday. So, what we planned on doing is having the kids come out and set it up as an opening for the new playground equipment, but really it was for the Hildreth family.”
Kids were excited to get some time out of class as everyone made their way outside to the pavement for the big surprise. Principle Gray made his announcement on the “new playground equipment”, while cleverly revealing the bigger secret as Hildreth made his grand entrance. As kids were asked to stay seated, Gray had Kara stand up and turn around to show her who was making their way to greet her. Kara, a bit distraught at first, took notice then rushed to her dad with open arms and the utmost joy. Kara and her father greeted each other with unrestrained love and some long-overdue hugs. Students were given flags to show their appreciation, while being a part of this joyful experience. The crowd made a welcoming applause as the family came together for a heart-warming reception.
“It’s been since March not seeing my family in person. Being apart from your family is the hardest, because your kids are growing in the meantime and have their lives to focus on. I’m very happy to be with them again,” Hildreth exclaimed. He reminded everyone present, “Remember that we have lots of service members overseas all the time, even though very few of society is serving currently. And there’s a lot of people away from their families, especially with the holidays coming up.” Hildreth gave credit to the many military affiliated organizations by stating, “That’s why I like those groups like the USO and Operation Gratitude that make for huge morale boosters for all who are over there. It’s nice to have a little piece of home. I had a couple of Girl Scout cookie boxes sent to me through those organizations.” Hildreth mentioned he uses Facebook, Messenger, and Facetime to keep in touch with his family while he’s away.
“We’re very excited having him home and happy that he’s back. It’s a stress reliever for me,” Hildreth’s wife commented. She also stated, “I have to give most of the credit to Mrs. McDaniels, because I came to her when school started and said Michael’s coming home around September and would hope to have a surprise.” Mrs. McDaniels said she thought it would be a wonderful experience to give the whole school, as they had never done this before. “It shows respect and compassion for what military families go through and gives the kids an experience they can remember,” McDaniels stated. The Hildreths couldn’t be more grateful for all who had a hand in the surprise. The Record Delta also extends thanks to all who have served and are serving in the Armed Forces.