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Soldier surprises his kids with early homecoming

By Staff | Dec 20, 2010

As far as Emma and Cameron Germain knew, it was just another Friday afternoon at Winnebago Elementary School.

They were probably more excited than most days, simply because they were just hours away from the weekend, and also because their dad would soon be home.

Chaplain Cory Germain was in the Movement Control Battalion of the U.S. Army Reserves, stationed in Afghanistan, and it would be the first time in a year that they’d see him in person.

But that wasn’t supposed to be until Saturday, so this afternoon should have been like any other. Fortunately for them, it wasn’t.

Seven-year-old Cameron was tucked away in the corner of his classroom, contently reading a book to himself when Cory walked in.

Cory might have spotted his son right away, but it wasn’t until he was right up next to Cameron that the boy took notice of his dad. And when he did, his reaction was not what anyone expected.

As nonchalantly as can be, the second-grader simply looked up from his book and quietly said, “Hi dad.”

It took a little coaxing, but Cory — thrilled to be seeing his son after a year abroad — eventually weaseled a hug out of Cameron.

Cory had surprised one of his children, but there was another sitting just a few classrooms away that was still under the impression her dad wouldn’t be home until tomorrow.

Emma’s fourth-grade class was enjoying a movie in their desks when Cory snuck into the dark classroom. He was directed by the teacher to take a seat in the row of students behind his daughter.

Soon, the teacher proceeded to flick on the lights, but she didn’t say a word. Not even a minute had passed when students were slowly turning around in their desks, looking for an answer as to why the movie theater atmosphere was disrupted with light. That’s when she saw him.

Emma turned around to find her dad hanging out in one of the desks as if he was just another student. The shock of the surprise kept her seated at first, but after just a few moments of staring at him, Emma ran from her desk and jumped to hug her dad.

Her arms and legs wrapped around him simultaneously and her head fell immediately on his shoulder. Crying, she held onto him tight, and didn’t let go for minutes.

“That got to me. That really kind of broke me up, having her jump up in my arms,” Cory recalls.

After realizing she was allowed to leave school early, Emma gathered up her things from her locker — never moving too far from her dad.

In honor of Cory’s homecoming, Winnebago held a short parade and reception for the Germains that afternoon. Following the excitement, the family was ready to go make up for lost time, and simply be a family.

“We just went home and had some supper together and just relaxed. Just soaked it in,” Cory says. “Since then, it’s back to business as usual, unfortunately.”

For the kids, school and piano lessons are back in the picture, but so are playing games as a family and teaching their dad how to use a Nintendo Wii, something they got for Christmas last year.

Cory was able to spend the holiday with his family in 2009, but has spent most of 2010 overseas and was shocked to see how much his kids had changed.

“They’re both growing faster than I can imagine, and they seemed to develop even more personality,” he says. “In my memory they were still my little kids.”

While he was away, Cory was able to talk to his family over the internet every few days, exchange e-mails on a regular basis and even send text messages to his wife, Ellen.

But now that he’s home, the communication he had with them from Afghanistan just doesn’t compare.

“Skype is one thing, but seeing them in person and hugging them and kissing them and being part of life is a whole different ball game.”

Once he gets adjusted to life back in the States, Cory says he doesn’t really know what he’ll do next. He’s considered going on active duty with the U.S. Army as a Chaplain, or possibly becoming a minister at a church in the upper midwest, but hasn’t made any decisions yet.

One thing Cory does know is that after having lived overseas, down in Kentucky, and now in Minnesota, he’s happy where he’s at now, with his family living in Winnebago.

“That’s been a good decision for us. I really feel like the kids have blossomed in the school,”?Cory says. “It’s nice to have them here where people know us and look out for us.”