Soldier home after year-long deployment surprises children at school

Published 10:42 am Friday, October 8, 2021

Staff Sgt. Corey Aguillard surprised his two children at school on Wednesday with a tear-filled, unexpected return from deployment. Crowds of students lined the breezeway of Dolby Elementary School as he made his way towards the classrooms of Rosalee Aguillard, fourth grade, and Owen Aguillard, first grade.

In preparation for the surprise, Principal Laura Phenice visited Rosalee’s classroom and asked students about their knowledge of Veterans Day. Students shared their ideas, but Rosalee was unknowingly right on track.

“My dad is a veteran,” she said. “He’s deployed.”

Phenice shared with the class that Rosalee’s father has been in Syria for over a year when he entered the doorway. Rosalee immediately burst into tears and ran into Corey’s arms.

“I missed you so much…This is the best day ever!” she said held tightly in her father’s arms.

“I guess this puts a whole new meaning to Veterans Day,” Phenice said to the classroom, which was filled with tear-filled faces.

Aguilllard then walked to Owen’s classroom for another surprise but not before being greeted again by a breezeway full or students cheering for his service. Phenice similarly prepped the firs-grade class for the treat that left Owen starstruck at the sight of his dad.

“You can get it up,” his teacher said as Owen sat motionless in his desk, mouth wide with astonishment before running up for a hug.

While watching the interaction between dad and son, Corrin Aguillard, Corey’s wife, said that somehow Owen knew his father would be home soon, despite his parents keeping the surprise tightly under wraps.

Corrin said Owen even began a mysterious 10-day countdown in preparation for Corey’s return. Owen’s response to his insight was simply, “I knew that he was going to come home because I have a very smart brain.”

Corrin and Corey had been working on the surprise for some time after being inspired by an online video. “It’s something I saw on the internet and thought would be a fun thing to do. My wife thought it would be a great idea too and it really turned into more than I thought,” Corey said.

“Seeing the reaction of the kids, though, really for me made it worth while because I haven’t seen my children in a very long time.”

Corrin said she most looks forward to a return to Corey’s cooking and when he announced he’d be making curry on Thursday night, Owen shouted, “Curry!” with a big grin on his face.

The freedom to choose his meals is something Corey said he is most looking forward to besides the reunion with his family, he said. “When you’re over there you have a choice of what they make or not eating. The first good meal will be the home-cooked meal.”

While the family beamed with the joy of being together again, Rosalee revealed a major weight has been lifted after seeing her father again.

“I was so happy that I literally cried. And I was just so excited that he was back because I hadn’t seen him in a year. I’ve been stressed all year. Now that he’s back, that’s one thing I can get off of my plate.”

Corrin likewise agreed saying a reunion like Thursday’s was definitely “worth the wait” and Corey said it was one more thing he could mark off of his bucket list.

“There were a few moments where I almost cried myself,” he said.