Entries in Surprise (3)


Soldier’s Surprise Homecoming at Christmas Parade Shocks Family

Shelby Police(SHELBY, N.C.) -- An unexpected event stole the show during the annual Christmas parade in Shelby, N.C.

Specialist Walter Smith, 26, returned home early from Afghanistan to surprise his family along the parade route by popping out of the backseat of an antique Shelby police patrol car that was part of the celebration.

“I was the lucky one that got to carry him,” Shelby Police Chief Jeff Ledford told ABC News.  "It was well worth it. That was a highlight of the parade. They had no idea.”

One of Smith’s cousins, Gloria Philbeck, works as a telecommunicator for the police department and asked Ledford if the department could help organize the surprise. He obliged, and was excited to take part in the family’s special moment.

“She came to me about a week ago and said he was coming home. They wanted to make it special and make sure that nobody would know. So we just started arranging,” Ledford said. “How do we pull this off and make it really cool? So we lay him in the backseat and cover him up with a raincoat.”

Once the patrol car reached the point where Smith’s family was located on the sidewalk, Ledford stopped the car, walked over to Smith’s grandmother and told her Santa had an early Christmas present for her.

“We had our Honor Guard keyed in so they knew. They spun around to salute him,” Ledford explained. “It was one of the coolest moments, other than the grandmother’s face when I told her Santa was bringing them a present a little early. The look on her face was priceless."

“He goes halfway to the family and he heard the Honor Guard salute him. And he turned around and saluted them back. That’s when the crowd erupted. They heard his grandmother screaming, and that’s when they knew they were witnessing something amazing. You almost didn’t want to go back and finish the parade. You just wanted to stay there and celebrate.”

Smith, who had been deployed to Afghanistan for seven and a half months, originally wasn’t scheduled to return home until April 2013. But the second he learned of his early homecoming, he started planning the surprise.

“I was planning it as soon as I knew I was coming home,” Smith said. “I knew the Christmas parade was the week after I came home, and I knew they’d all be there. They all went crazy when I showed my face. I think my grandma and my mom were the most excited.”

But they weren’t the only women he rushed home to surprise. His baby daughter, Serena, was born two and a half months ago.

“I got to see her for the first time. It meant the world to me,” said Smith.

Smith is home for good now and is keeping busy Christmas shopping and playing with his little girl.


Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


VIDEO: Military Dad Surprises Family at Baseball Game

ABC News(PAPILLION, Neb.) -- It’s a surprise 8-year-old Jackson Zortman will never forget. Jackson, a big baseball fan, was picked to throw out the first pitch for the Omaha Storm Chasers, AAA affiliate of the Kansas City Royals, as the honorary “kid of the week” at Werner Park.

Unfortunately, Rik Zortman, Jackson’s dad, was in Mississippi training with the Iowa Air National Guard and wasn’t around to help Jackson practice for his big moment. Instead, Jackson practiced all week with his brother and sister to help him get ready.

The big day came and Jackson threw out the first pitch of the game. The announcer then explained that the catcher had a secret. As Staff Sgt. Zortman took off his catcher’s mask, he knew he had pulled off quite a surprise. Jackson and his family all rushed to hug him at home plate and welcome him home.

“I heard them say his name, but I didn’t think that he would be here,” Jackson told ABC’s Omaha, Neb., affiliate KETV.

“It’s been tough because I’ve been hiding out. But I’ve been going to places I knew they wouldn’t be,” said Rik Zortman.

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This isn’t the first surprise from Staff Sgt. Zortman either. He once surprised his wife on Mother’s Day by setting up a scavenger hunt for her to find him.

“It was super sneaky,” said his wife Lindsay Zortman. “We’re not going to be able to believe him when he sends messages or updates his Twitter.”

It was a day that Jackson will never forget, and he even hopes to one day surprise his future family too, just like dad does.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


President Obama Makes Surprise Visit to Afghanistan

Photo Courtesy - AFP/Getty Images(BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan) -- President Obama arrived in Afghanistan Friday for an unannounced visit with American troops.

The president's visit comes as his administration nears completion of a strategic review of the nine-year war and as diplomatic cables made public by WikiLeaks express concern about corruption in the government of Hamid Karzai.

The trip is Barack Obama's third trip to the country, and his second as president.

The president was originally scheduled to have a "working dinner" with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at his presidential palace in Kabul in this unannounced visit, and to meet with civilian personnel at the U.S. Embassy in the capital city. But strong winds and low cloud cover made helicopter travel hazardous, so in the last few hours of the president's trip to Bagram on Air Force One, the Kabul part of the visit was scrapped.

The principal reason for the trip is for the president to thank U.S. troops for their service during the holiday season, National Security adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters traveling on Air Force One. "It's a tough time" for troops since they're away from their loved ones.

The president will meet with eight wounded patients at Bagram -- five troops and three civilians -- and present four Purple Heart awards. He will also meet with troops from the 101st Airborne Division, which is in the midst of its fourth combat deployment since 2003, having served two tours in Iraq and one previous 15 month rotation from 2008 through 2009.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio