Ray Gora / Lincoln Times-News
Kaitlyn Parker, a second grader at Union Elementary School in Vale, thought her favorite uncle would be returning home from Kuwait on Saturday. But much to her surprise, he popped out of a school closet Wednesday in front of her entire class.
Kevin Sigmon, who’s been overseas the last year building roads as part of the National Guard’s 505th Engineer Battalion in Gastonia, knew surprising his seven-year-old niece would be the highlight of her day, and probably her year.
The tiny, blond-haired girl immediately raced to Kevin and jumped into his arms, too excited to even scream. Instead, she smiled from ear-to-ear, flashing a grin that revealed her missing two front teeth.
Her parents, Jennifer and Brandon Parker, along with her grandma, Debbie Sigmon, were also on hand for the event.
The children, part of Kim Ward’s Title I reading class, earlier piled into the classroom with patriotic decorations and refreshments, thinking they were going to hear a talk from Kaitlyn’s father, a Cherryville police officer, on “stranger danger.”
After he told the students he instead had a surprise for them, the soldier, dressed in camouflage and combat boots, swung open a nearby closet door and entered the scene.
Kaitlyn had last spoken to her uncle on Sunday, asking when he was coming home “to the USA,” her mother said.
Since January, Ward said she and her class have been writing letters to the military man, and in return, he’s sent back pictures of the local people.
“He’s been very gracious to us,” she said. “It’s been a great learning experience for the children and helped with their writing skills, too.”
A large paper banner that said, “Welcome Home, Capt. Sigmon,” hung on the classroom wall. The children decorated it with various colorful drawings and encouraging words.
Students also asked Kevin several questions they prepared for him. Questions included what kind of gun he carried, what his overseas job entailed, if his job was “fun” and what he missed most about America.
Kevin said he missed “all the green out there,” while pointing to a classroom window where students could see through to the outside grass and trees.
“There was a lot of sand and dust (overseas),” he said.
One student in particular, whose question produced chuckles from everyone in the room, asked if the soldier had to wear his long-sleeve uniform every day in the hot weather, and if he had ever washed it throughout his 11 years in the Army.
Kevin, a Lincolnton native and Lincolnton High School graduate, will only be in town a few days before heading back to his residence in Raleigh. However, he has no doubt that Kaitlyn has already made plans for the two of them to hangout.
“We’ll go to the movies,” she said smiling.
Kevin also served in Iraq from 2005 to 2006 and has no idea when he’ll have to pack his bags again.
“I’m glad to be home,” he said.