Ball Ground ES STEM Academy Reunites Military Dad with First-Grade Daughter in Veterans Day Surprise
Category : CCSD
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Ball Ground Elementary School STEM Academy’s Veterans Day celebration on Friday, Nov. 11, 2016 honored one veteran in an extraordinary way.
After a small group of first-graders from onstage led the audience in The Pledge of Allegiance, a teacher asked if any of them knew a veteran.
Olivia Givens spoke up.
“My dad is in the war… in Kabul,” she said into a microphone that made her tiny voice a little bit bigger. “It’s a far place away.”
Suddenly, a loud voice rang out: “Spartan!”
And across the stage marched a man wearing U.S. Army fatigues and a big grin.
Speechless, Olivia looked on in awe. It was her Daddy, who she missed so much for the past year that she slept with a “Daddy doll.” A doll with a photo of her Daddy’s face, which her grandmother hears Olivia talk to every night as she falls asleep.
First Lt. Christopher Givens scooped her up in a hug, as the veterans, their families, students and teachers filling the cafeteria rose to their feet, clapping, laughing and crying.
“See you all later,” 1st Lt. Givens said, as he carried Olivia offstage… a smile on her face so wide it stretched from pigtail to pigtail.
The reunion was orchestrated by teachers at the school and Olivia’s grandmother, Judy Givens.
“If I could give her a special surprise, this would be one of them and to have her daddy hug her and tell her that he loves her,” Mrs. Givens said before the surprise reunion. “Nannie and Paw Paw have waited what feels like a lifetime for this day… I can look down in those big blue eyes and say we gave her the best present she has ever wanted.”
For 1st Lt. Givens, who has served for 13 years including stretches in Korea and Egypt, this was his first long tour of duty away from Olivia since her birth. After several months of train-up away from home, he headed to the NATO base at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, where he served for nine months as a medical logistics officer and the person-in-charge.
After the shock of the reunion turned to hugs and kisses, Olivia had time to reflect on the surprise.
“When he came out, I was a little scared,” she said, wiping a few tears away on his camouflaged shoulder. “I’m happy now.”
First Lt. Givens said his “heart was racing,” too, as he stood behind the curtains awaiting his cue.
“I didn’t know what I was going to say, but she’s my little Spartan,” 1st Lt. Givens said, noting the Spartan nickname comes from the obstacle course races of the same name that also include children’s programs. He looks forward to them racing together again soon.
Olivia has only one plan: “I want to stay with him forever,” she said, hugging his neck as tight as a little girl can.