RAINSVILLE, Ala. -- Even the youngest students at Cornerstone Christian Academy in Rainsville knew they were seeing something special at an assembly Wednesday when a dad came home from deployment and surprised his kids at school.
The gym at Cornerstone Christian Academy is quiet Wednesday, until the crackle of the loudspeaker breaks the stillness. The echoing instructions are for the students to come to the gym.
As the silence grows with the sound of hundreds of feet shuffling into the gym, the sound of a steel drum mixes with the surroundings.
The school has something special going on Wednesday; a performance by the school's steel drum band.
There's more to it than that, though. "My name is Sergeant First Class Johnny Stewart." SFC Stewart waits outside the gym while all of the students file in. He is returning home from a nine month deployment in Kosovo. "First time in nine months, I'll get to see my kids," he says with a smile.
He's about to give 9-year-old Trey and 3-year-old Caroline a surprise of a lifetime.
"I'm going to call for four or five our students to come out and we're going to do the Pledge of Allegiance to our flag," says a school staff member, corralling students into an order. They call for Trey, who skips down to the middle of the room.
"Do you want to learn how to play the steel drums?" he's asked, and responds with an emphatic nod. That notion is about to be derailed, though.
A school staff member goes over to a door where SFC Stewart is waiting. The door is slowly opened. "Do I just walk up there?" he asks. He gets a nod from the school staff member.
As SFC Stewart's 9-year-old and 3-year-old happily play the steel drums, he walks up behind them. Trey turns around and see his dad for the first time in months.
They hug, and the room erupts in applause. The students give him a standing ovation. "Sergeant First Class Johnny Stewart is home," is announced over the loudspeaker.
The family hugs tight, a moment no doubt pictured for nearly a year.