Coming home from Afghanistan, a Lancaster County soldier enlisted FOX43’s help to surprise his wife and two daughters during a staged interview.
Army Sgt. First Class Shanon Houser of Lancaster Township shared his plans with us through a video diary while he was still in Afghanistan.
“I’ve been here now about seven and a half months in Afghanistan. We have a small group of guys, only 11 of us. And we’re over here training the Afghan National Army soldiers,” he said. “We’re about 30 days from leaving, pretty excited, our families are getting excited.”
Houser is proud of the work he’s doing alongside the men of the 352nd Military Police Company, but it’s still hard to be away from home.
“This is my fourth deployment as a reservist, third overseas,” he said. “They don’t necessarily get easier as my kids get older, things get tougher.”
Back at home, it’s a different battle for Houser’s wife Tara, as she takes on the role of both mom and dad. It’s something that has become familiar, but still difficult.
“Stress of not having him home, stress of handling the bills, handling everything around here,” Tara Houser said. “It’s just a lot to worry about, but throughout the years I’ve gotten better at handling it.”
The hardest task of all, comforting kids who miss their dad. That’s where older sister Kelsey steps in for younger sister Alexis.
“We cry at times and sometimes she does say that she misses Daddy and I understand cause I went through the same thing she did, so I’m like before you know it Daddy will be at home,” said Kelsey Houser. “It’ll be okay.”
What Tara and her girls don’t know is that daddy is coming home sooner than they think.
“She’s not onto the plan at all,” Shanon told us.
He’s been planning for months to surprise them with our help.
“The last two deployments, I was able to see my family at the airport and come home and leave and stuff, I’ve done that before and it’s great,” he said. “But this is going to be a little more fun I think.”
We interviewed Tara two weeks before Shanon’s arrival, telling her we were doing a story on how military families cope with deployments.
A week later, we told her we lost the video and had to redo it, so that we’d be in place to capture the moment that Shanon walked through the door. On the way home, Shanon was a ball of nerves.
“I have a feeling we’re going to get busted somehow,” he said. “I don’t know how, I just have a feeling, it’s not going to work out, but maybe it will. I hope it does.”
“The girls’ looks are going to be priceless, I think. That’s why I wanted to do this. Just to capture that,” Shanon added.
With the camera rolling and the girls on the couch, we asked Tara what she would say to Shanon if she could talk to him right now.
“If I was able to talk to him right now, I would say that I love him, I miss him and to hurry home,” she said.
At that moment, Shanon walked in.
Tara, in shock, said “Oh my God!”
And Kelsey ran into her dad’s arms, shouting, “Daddy!”
The family then shared plenty of hugs, kisses and tears.
Now that the Housers are back together again, they have big plans, a trip to Disney and a turkey hunting trip. Most importantly, they’ll be doing it together.