So much better than a diploma! Video captures the touching moment US Army officer surprised his daughter at her high school graduation – after being deployed for nearly TEN YEARS
- US Army Staff Sgt. Anthony Tillman surprised his daughter Kayla Tillman at her high school graduation
- The teen was brought on stage at her graduation from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
- A speaker announced that her dad was there and the two shared a hug
- Sgt. Tillman has been serving in Korea and had told her he couldn’t come home for the event
A US Army officer who has been oversees for nearly half of his teenage daughter’s life surprised her this weekend at her high school graduation.
Staff Sgt. Anthony Tillman has been deployed in Korea serving his country, a duty that has kept him away from his family for almost ten years.
But this weekend, his daughter Kayla Tillman graduated from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida — and he turned up surprise her on stage in front of an auditorium full of people.
Happy moment: US Army Staff Sgt. Anthony Tillman surprised his daughter Kayla Tillman at her high school graduation
Long time: He’s been away from his family for nearly ten years while serving in the army
Love: Kayla said she was ‘surprised’ and ‘happy’ that her dad turned up at the event
Video taken from the event shows Kayla, a bit confused, being summoned up onto the stage by herself during her graduation ceremony under the pretense that she was being honored as a student of distinction, according to the Miami Herald.
A female speaker asks her to stand nearby as she speaks into the microphone: ‘Kayla, we thank you and your family for the sacrifices you have made to defend our freedom.’
Then, choking up herself, she adds: ‘All the way from Korea, please welcome U.S. Staff Sgt. Anthony Tillman!’
Kayla told 7 News Miami that she was ‘surprised’ by the shock visit — and she looked it. When her dad walked up on stage, she came in a long hug, tearing up and wiping her eyes when they finally pulled away.
The father-daughter pair got a standing ovation, with the school’s Assistant Principal Margie Scott admitting that the reunion was an emotional surprise for many of the school officials too.
She added that Kayla’s father arrived at the school on Sunday, asking to surprise the teen, and he and a handful of school staff quickly set a plan into motion.
She didn’t know: The teen was brought on stage at her graduation from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida for the big surprise
Reveal: A female speaker thanked her and her family and then announced that her dad was there
Touching: The two shared a hug while the crowd gave them a standing ovation
Sacrifice: Sgt. Tillman said he missed most of his daughter’s life while deployed in Korea
Sgt. Tillman said it’s been hard to be so far from his daughters, Kayla and younger sister Lena, with the family keeping in touch over FaceTime for much of his deployment.
‘I was deployed in Korea. I missed most of my daughter’s life, high school life, probably since fourth grade,’ he said.
‘I’m a tank commander. I have a combat MOS, and I always think about them, when I’m out there doing my job, to make sure that I make it back safe to them. That was really my motivation, thinking about my daughters. I gotta go home to them.’
With Kayla’s graduation coming up, he told her that unfortunately he’d be unable to make it, which was upsetting for the teen — but little did she know that he had the surprise planned.
Sgt. Tillman flew for 24 hours and then drove for another six to make it to Fort Lauderdale for the ceremony.
Kayla, seen smiling with her dad, said she was ‘happy’ he was home.