Surprise visit worth more than any letter

Posted: Wednesday, June 01, 2005

I recently went through the process of getting a passport and traveling to South Korea. Our daughter is stationed there in the U.S. Army. She has not been able to come home for more than a year.

Since my husband was due vacation time, we decided to travel to surprise our daughter.

With the help of the duty officer meeting newly arrived service personnel, we were able to get tickets and catch a bus from Seoul to the closest town to her base. We road the bus for two hours and spent another 45 minutes trying to catch a taxi to take us the rest of the way.

When we arrived at the main gate, my husband found three men who were off duty and who carried our luggage into the guard house and then waited for us to be checked into the base.

We explained why we were there and that we were going to surprise our daughter. The sergeant at the gate asked her name and I explained she had gotten married and I was unsure if she was using her married or maiden name.

While I was taking out my ID, my daughter's photo dropped, and when he picked it up he laughed, explaining she was on the other gate at that moment.

We explained to the sergeant on duty who we were and what we wanted to do. He took us to the lodge, checked us in.

The sergeant and our daughter, who had just got off duty, walked around the building where we were hidden along with our three escorts. He was watching for us and smiled as he walked her past us.

My husband stepped out of the shadows and called "Attention" and my daughter jumped, turned around and totally forgot everything.

Her helmet, backpack and Kevlar vest went flying. She got a death grip around her dad's neck and all you could hear was her crying and laughing.

"Daddy, oh God! You're here, Daddy!"

In her excitement at seeing him, I don't think she even noticed me. As I wiped tears, I heard our the escorts talking.

"That is so great."

"Yeah, I am lucky to get a letter once a month, if then," said the other.

"I can't believe that they loved her enough to come and see her as a surprise," said another.

That was a common refrain I heard while I was there.

I am grateful to the men and women stationed at that base. They helped us surprise our daughter, they welcomed us into their midst and helped us have a nice stay.

I think if your family member is stationed at a base where you are able to visit, and they invited you, you should make the effort to see them.

This can make a difference in their lives. It lets them know that even if they are not stationed in a war zone, such as Iraq or Afghanistan, you still appreciate that your loved one has given up part of their life to defend our freedom at home.

These men and women are the unsung heroes. They are our husbands, wives, sons and daughters — our loved ones. Aren't they worth more than a letter once a month?

As I sat on the porch steps writing a rough draft of this letter, I couldn't help thinking of all those men and women saying, "She's lucky. My family wouldn't."

Please remember, they need our support.

Jackie Rehrig


Editor's note: Because of security reasons, the daughter's name and name of the base could not be used in this letter.

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