By Sam Campbell
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (Feb. 1, 2019) — Sgt. 1st Class Jerome Harvey, a Soldier with the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division out of Fort Carson, Colorado, made a visit to Laquey Elementary School on Thursday to hold a surprise reunion with his two daughters.
They had no idea he was already home from his nine-month deployment to Afghanistan.
Reporters from the GUIDON and KY3 were informed about the event beforehand and were present to capture the moment.
Harvey’s daughter, Jasmine, recalled the exciting scene.
“This news guy walks in and says, ‘We’re doing a story on deployed parents,’ so I (sighed) and thought, ‘He’s going to have to talk to me in front of all my friends,'” she said. “This whole time he’s like ‘how do you feel when…’ and then Dad walks in and my mind just goes blank.”
“My legs were just pumping air, and then I basically (jumped) on his chest and hugged him and almost broke his back,” she added. “Normally I would care if I was crying in front of my friends, but to be honest, I don’t care, I was just crying because my dad was there.”
Harvey’s younger daughter, Trinity, said it was just as much of a surprise to her. “I was so shocked,” she said.
Keeping this homecoming a secret from the girls was no easy task. Because his mother, Darlene Battle, a retired staff sergeant who serves as Fort Leonard Wood’s installation transportation officer, is on a long-term training assignment in Germany, Harvey enlisted the help of his father, Robert Battle, who is also an Army veteran.
“Robert contacted me last week and asked if it would be okay if we did a surprise, so we started last week making plans for today,” Laquey Elementary Principal Casey Storie said.
Since the girls live with Battle in Laquey, Missouri, he had to practice a little harmless deception on them to make this all work.
“I actually told them that I needed their room painted and to give me the colors of what they want, and that the guy is coming by today to look at the room, so I wanted them to tidy up,” he said. “They thought they were still talking to (their dad) last week in Afghanistan but he was already (in the U.S.).”
“The girls, I don’t keep anything from them, but I kept that,” he said.
Harvey explained Laquey schools had a profound impact on his thoughts leading up to the meeting.
“It’s a little nostalgic, because this is where I graduated from 20 years ago,” he said. “I (thought) back to when (my daughters) were born and when I said goodbye to them this last time.”
Harvey said he originally conceived of the plan to surprise his daughters when he left for Afghanistan on April 12.
This reunion stayed in the back of his mind during those nine months.
Toward the end of the deployment, “I was getting anxious, but my dad was able to take care of it and make sure everything was lined up,” he said.
Jasmine interrupted his train of thought. “Wait a second,” she said. “Was that why you were on the phone with him yesterday and you said you couldn’t talk?”
Harvey replied, “You guys are the sharpest crayons in the box.”
After the emotions subsided, the daughters had time to think about their next plans with their dad.
They stated in unison their first order of business: “Chinese food.”
“That’s what he’s been craving,” Jasmine said.
About Fort Leonard Wood
Fort Leonard Wood is a thriving and prosperous installation that has evolved from a small basic training post more than 75 years ago to a premier Army Center of Excellence that trains more than 82,000 military and civilians each year.
Fort Leonard Wood is home to the U.S Army Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and three U.S. Army schools: the U.S. Army Engineer School; U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear School; and the U.S. Army Military Police School. In addition to training engineer, CBRN and military police specialties for the Army, Fort Leonard Wood also provides gender-integrated in-processing and Basic Combat Training for new Soldiers.
Fort Leonard Wood also hosts and trains with the largest Marine Corps and Air Force detachments on any Army installation as well as a large Navy construction detachment.