When John Back, an aviation boatswain’s mate in the U.S. Navy, wanted to surprise his sons after returning from a deployment, he had something low-key in mind. Instead, the staff and faculty at Shearer Elementary had bigger plans.
Back surprised his two sons, second-grader Jordan and third-grader Josh, in front of the entire student body Friday in the school’s gym.
“I just wanted to come to school and surprise the boys in class — something small, not too big,” Back said. “It kind of evolved from there.”
The children at Shearer Elementary were called to the gym under the guise of an assembly for the start of the new school semester. Students were recognized for achievements and school principal Regina Dawson led the student body in the Pledge of Allegiance. She got some help with pledge, asking Josh and Jordan to act as standard-bearers.
“He (Back) called me and let know he was coming back and I got a hold of the school. They put everything together,” the boys’ mother, Andrea Townsend, said. “They (boys) had no idea. We didn’t let them know.”
With the boys seated in front of the assembly, Dawson introduced a visitor to the school and Back walked across the gym floor to reunite with his sons, who hadn’t seen him since June.
“It broke my heart,” Townsend said. “I teared up. I was just excited for the kids.”
The boys were slow to react but quick to realize what was going on.
“He walked through the door and I tapped him (Jordan) and I said, ‘Look, it’s Daddy,’” Josh said.
When Back got to within a few steps of the seated boys, Josh went over and hugged him. They shared a short moment before Back spoke a few words to the assembly.
After some photos, the family shared a breakfast in the staff’s conference room.
Both boys said they were nervous being in front of the entire school. Back was less nervous about that than the reunion.
“I wasn’t nervous until I stepped up to the door, and I could see the kids there — it’s been a while,” he said. “I just wanted to hug my kids. And I got to.”
“I’m excited that I get to finally see him, because I haven’t see him in a long time,” Josh said.
Back has served with the Navy for eight years and has completed three deployments. His most recent deployment was on the U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Mediterranean-Middle East.
Contact Casey Castle at email@example.com.