Soldier surprise

Erin Smith Staff writer

December 6, 2013

CLARKTON — One little girl at Clarkton School of Discovery got a huge early Christmas gift on Friday during her third-period class when her father, Major Bill McKernan, surprised his daughter Caroline.

The students in Caroline’s class were escorted into the media center after the 9:45 a.m. bell at CSD and were initially told by Bladen County Schools Public Relations Director Valerie Newton that they were in the library with the news cameras swirling to celebrate the selection of their teacher, Tiffany Gooden, as Teacher of the Week. The students had no idea who was standing behind the blue curtain on the stage.

As Newton introduced Gooden, the class was instructed that they were going to perform an exercise they had done in class for the members of the media called “inference.” As they went through the exercise, it came to Caroline’s turn and her word was “soldier.” After moment of hesitation and nerves, while Caroline performed her word and returned to her seat, her father stepped through the curtain to everyone’s delight and surprise.

Caroline sat speechless in her chair, but only for a moment, and she ran onto the stage and hugged her father.

Newton said the staff and teachers at the school had worked hard to keep McKernan’s surprise for his daughter a secret.

“Her teacher had been talking with her father since October,” said Newton. “Caroline had made known to Ms. Gooden that she wanted a surprise for her daddy like they have on TV.”

McKernan expressed he was both excited and a little nervous about the planned surprise as he prepared to take his place behind the curtain.

“I just got here yesterday,” said McKernan.

He said he arrived at Fort Dix on Nov. 27 and had been debriefed before arriving in Fayetteville.

He has served 18 years on active duty and has just spent 11 months in Mazar-Shariff, Afghanistan, as part of the LOGCAP unit. He said he hopes to finish out his 20 years of service at Forces Command on Fort Bragg.

“I’m very happy to be back with my girl,” said McKernan after their reunion.

Caroline said,” I’m kinda shocked. I’m kinda in a dream still. I’m just happy he’s home to spend the holidays with me.”

She continued by saying she wasn’t expecting him to surprise her right then but maybe later in the day.

McKernan said it was hard to explain his feelings at that moment other than that he is “really excited.”