INDIAN TRAIL – Byron Harrill’s seventh birthday is going to be a day to remember – he gets to spend it with his dad for the first time in two years.
The Porter Ridge Elementary School first-grader turns 7 years old this Saturday, Nov. 30, and received a special early birthday present last week when his dad, Tyler Harrill, surprised him during a Veterans Day celebration at school – after spending two years stationed at Anderson Air Force Base in Guam.
“There were a lot of his firsts that I was away for – his first day of school, you know, first bike ride, a lot of that stuff that I wasn’t there with him,” Harrill said.
Shortly after 9 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 21, students at Porter Ridge Elementary filed into the school’s auditorium for a special Veterans Day celebration and breakfast honoring service members. As Byron sat in front of the stage and the chorus sang “The Star-Spangled Banner,” little did he know his dad would walk through the doors of the auditorium a few minutes later.
When the choir finished the national anthem, music teacher Bridget Burrows called Byron to come
forward and share a little about his dad. As Byron talked about his dad’s job with the Air Force, Harrill showed up behind his son, tapped him on the shoulder and the two shared a long-awaited embrace.
“It’s (exciting) because I haven’t seen him in a long time,” Byron said.
Byron’s mom, Lauren Bannon, helped orchestrate Harrill’s arrival. She knew it’d been way too long since her son had seen his dad and wanted to give him a special surprise.
“It’s been two years since they’ve seen each other. I just wanted to do something special for them – for Byron and Tyler,” Bannon said.
Harrill departed from Guam on Nov. 20 and arrived at the school Thursday morning. He admitted before seeing Byron he was “trying not to be” nervous about seeing his son after two years. But he and Byron caught up quickly, and after their reunion, the two talked about their plans for the next 30 days – which include outdoor “adventures” in the woods and a trip to Xtreme Play in Monroe for Byron’s birthday.
“(I want to), like, hang out with him for a while. Maybe we will go on adventures (in the woods),” Byron said.
Byron also had the opportunity to meet his 7-month-old half-brother, Wyatt, for the first time – and even had the chance to feed Wyatt his bottle.
“That was really exciting, and he’s so cute,” Byron said about his little brother. “He’ll grow up just like my daddy and me.”
Harrill will return to Guam next month for another year until he is reassigned in December 2014. He’ll receive his reassignment in June, and he’s hoping it will be somewhere in the U.S. In the meantime, Harrill and Byron plan to make the most of their month together after a separation both say was way too long.
“We’ve got a lot of catching up to do,” Harrill said.