HEFLIN — It seemed like an ordinary school assembly that brought together the sixth-grade students of Cleburne County Middle School, but this one came with a special guest.
Certainly special to Caty Causey, 11.
That’s because the guest Wednesday afternoon was her dad, Matthew Causey, a master sergeant in the Alabama National Guard who transformed his return home from Germany into a special event for his children.
Son Connor, 8, had been surprised by his dad a little earlier at lunch with his fellow second-graders at Cleburne County Elementary. As for the father-daughter reunion, it was cheered by around 80 students and others as Caty ran as fast as she could into his open arms. Matthew scooped up his child, embraced her tightly and kissed her on the head — the two had not seen each other since earlier this year.
“I thought it was amazing to see my dad again,” said Caty afterward as the family had their photos taken.
Alison Causey, the children’s mother, planned the homecoming two weeks ago with Caryn Hyatt, one of Caty’s teachers.
Alison said that it was good to see her kids’ reactions of happiness when their father appeared.
“I was delighted, it made me so happy. I was on cloud nine for her and him,” said Alison.
Causey said he had been working with U.S. Army in Europe to prepare U.S. Army Reserve and National Guard units that participate in training exercises.
Causey said it was great to see his kids and he’s home to stay because his active duty requirements with the Alabama National Guard are over. Causey, who is also a sheriff’s deputy with Madison County, will go back to regular National Guard training.
“To be able to see them light up in my presence just reminds you of why soldiers serve, to see the love and happiness of their children and their families. It really comes back to that,” Causey said.
Todd Chandler, the middle school’s principal, knows firsthand what it’s like to be deployed overseas. Two years ago, Chandler was stationed in Afghanistan and away from his family for almost a year.
“It’s fun to watch being on this side of it,” Chandler said.
“You can’t fake chill bumps, even with the heat. It still got me, makes you feel good on the inside that you’re able to give somebody a ‘welcome home,’ because not everybody gets them,” he said.