While fire trucks sounded their sirens and flashed their lights, parade participants waved and kids collected candy, a mother kept a secret from her family as they watched the Fourth of July parade in Kenai.
At the grandstand on the Kenai Spur Highway section of the parade route, the Barlow family from Soldotna sat in a designated section of folding chairs. Cindy told her husband, Michael, and kids — Jacob; his wife, Samantha; Andrew; David and Lydia — they were sitting there as honored attendees. She said the reason was because the Barlow’s oldest son, 22-year-old U.S. Army Spc. Jacob Barlow, Airborne Infantry Division, returned to Alaska in December and is now stationed at Fort Richardson after serving a year in Afghanistan.
But that wasn’t the real reason the family sat in designated seats.
Cindy had classified information. Her second oldest son, 20-year-old U.S. Army Pfc. Stephen Barlow, Airborne Infantry Division, was coming home from Fort Bragg in North Carolina and seeing his family for the first time in months. Cindy arranged for Stephen to ride in a humvee at the beginning of the parade, get out and surprise his family.
At about 11:30 a.m., the humvee stopped in front of the Barlows. Stephen got out of the passenger side and walked around the front of the vehicle. When he saw his family across the street, he smiled. Grins spread across his family members’ faces when they saw him.
“I think (my family) was in shock a little bit,” Cindy said.
Unaware mom had planned the surprise, the kids yelled, “Mom, look!” when Stephen walked from the humvee across the street where Jacob greeted Stephen with a hug. The brothers hadn’t seen one another since Christmas.
“I was pretty amazed,” Jacob said about seeing his brother step out of the humvee.
Cindy said she had known for a week that Stephen would be coming home.
“I’ve been shaky all day,” Cindy said about keeping the secret.
Stephen arrived in Anchorage last night at about 1 a.m. and stayed with a friend before the parade.
His 10-day leave came at the perfect time; he could celebrate Independence Day and his dad’s July 5 birthday with his family.
Cindy said her children are all really close, and. aside from celebrating their dad’s birthday, they will probably just spend time together riding all-terrain vehicles and target shooting.
“It’s great. We’re glad to have everybody home,” Michael said.
Kaylee Osowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.