Ten-year-old Peyton Spurgeon was speechless after getting to see his father for the first time in months.
The Lakewood Elementary student thought his father, Jed, was still deployed for military duty in Japan—and that was by design, as he wanted to surprise his son — and did he ever, along with help from his wife, Laura, and the teachers and administrators of Lakewood, who helped organize a “Homecoming” for Peyton to be surprised by his father’s early return home.
“He actually knew when I was coming home — at first,” Jed explained. “But while I was over in Japan, I knew people do those little homecomings. My wife and I talked about it and she approached (Lakewood) with the idea. From there, they took care of everything … we ended up telling my son we’d pushed back the date and got ready.”
As it turned out, his teachers had the perfect way to sneak Jed into Peyton’s classroom without him knowing: they had him dress in costume as the Lakewood Elementary Gator mascot.
At first, Jed thought he’d been instantly caught.
“I walked in and I thought my son saw me,” Jed said. “I was a little hesitant to be looking in his direction, but he looked right at me. They were asking the kids who they thought was under the mask, then they kind of focused on Peyton and said ‘Who do YOU think it is?’ They did the countdown and I took the mask off.”
Peyton had not identified his father after all. He was taken aback.
“I think he was in complete shock,” Jed said. “He had no idea I’d even be in the area yet, let alone at the school. I thought it was pretty awesome. I was really anticipating it on my end, but it hit him at once.”
Peyton’s mother, Laura, was there herself, staying out of Peyton’s view.
“Oh wow, I was hiding in the principal’s office crying my eyes out,” Laura said of the moment. “After the big reveal I was able to come out and surprise him.”
As an active duty military sergeant, Jed does have to periodically travel for periods of time away from his family. Two years ago was the last such occasion, when he spent time in Germany. He said this time seemed tougher, perhaps because Peyton’s a little older now.
“This one felt longer,” Jed said.
“I think he was in complete shock … I thought it was pretty awesome.” — Jed Spurgeon
Laura said her son was definitely ready to see his dad again.
“The first few weeks, it wasn’t a big deal, but as time went on it was getting hard on him,” she said. “’I miss my dad, I want my dad to come home.’ He was extra bummed because he thought his dad would miss Halloween.”
After the reveal, Jed spent some time answering student questions about military life.
“’Do you get to jump out of planes?’ Things like that,” Jed said with a chuckle.
Both parents agreed Lakewood went above and beyond to create a truly memorable moment for their family.
“They were nothing but awesome about this whole thing,” said Laura. “Even before this, helping him keep his mind off (Jed) being gone, and then to do this … they’ve been planning this since about mid-August and it was so great of them.”