Two students at Eastside Elementary in Greenbrier received the greatest surprise in front of all their peers at school on Friday.
Fifth-grade student Micaela Collver and her sister, fourth grader Makenzie, haven’t seen their father, U.S. Army Sgt. Josh Collver, in 10 months.
Collver has been on deployment in East Africa since June; he just got back late Saturday night.
As far as the girls were concerned, their dad wasn’t even in the country.
“We called the principal on Monday,” Collver said. “I wanted to surprise them.”
At 1:45 p.m. on Friday, Josh and his family were waiting, out of sight, eager to see the two girls.
The Log Cabin Democrat had the opportunity to talk with him before the big reveal.
Josh said Micaela and Makenzie live in Greenbrier, while he and his wife, Elissa, and their two sons, Easton and Jase, live in Dallas.
“It’s been hard,” he said. “Holidays were probably the hardest. I don’t get to talk to them a whole lot, especially with the nine-hour time difference. It [was] hard.”
Josh said it was harder on his girls because not only are they old enough to understand what’s going on and what their dad does in the U.S. Army but because they live in Arkansas, his communication with them — versus his wife and sons — was more limited.
Several of the guys in his unit had surprises planned for their family members, so, Josh said, he decided to do it as well.
“They’re going to be shocked,” he told the LCD. “This is a memory that they can hold onto for the rest of their lives.”
Josh said he didn’t need a massive response.
“I just want a hug, I just want to see my girls,” he said. “I don’t need or want any big reaction, I just want to see my kids.”
Despite, that is exactly what he got.
Students started making their way into the cafeteria shortly before 2 p.m.
School administrators played it off like a typical awards assembly.
“We’re going to talk about attendance for just a minute,” school counselor Sherry Hogg told the group of students.
She said when she went to everyone’s classes over the week, several teachers mentioned how great attendance had been lately and decided that needed a celebration.
“Now, I took the liberty of putting y’alls name in [a container], so, people that were here everyday this week, I’m going to draw two student's [names] to receive an award.”
First, she called Micaela. Next, she called Makenzie.
The room erupted with cheers and, while the two sisters showed excitement for the surprise selection, they also seemed a bit confused.
“How often would that happen that the sisters would both get a reward on the same day, isn't that exciting,” Hogg asked, stirring the group of fourth and fifth graders.
In that moment, the Log Cabin Democrat could see Makenzie’s face, her lips mouthing, “is that dad,” while at the same time, Josh waltzed through the doors.
Tears already starting to roll down their faces, the girls took off, the three meeting midroom. Embracing, Josh and his daughters were met with cheers and claps from the others in the school cafeteria.
“I’m going to fill you guys in,” Hogg explained, to some confused faces. “Their dad has been gone for about a year so this is their first time they’ve seen him, isn’t that exciting.”
“Yeah,” someone in the group yelled.
The trio walked to the back of the room to meet up with Elissa, Easton and Jase, the group once again, embracing.
The LCD asked Josh if it was everything he had hoped for.
“It was more,” he replied.
Micaela said she was happy her dad was home and looked forward to getting to spend time with him, especially since they didn’t get that opportunity much while he was deployed.
“We’re going to hangout with them until Sunday night and then we’ll turn around on Easter and we should have them for a long weekend on [the holiday],” Josh said. “I’m super excited. There’s nothing better than having my entire family together.”