CLOVER — Monday is likely to be a day that 5-year-old Triron James Jr. will never forget.
Some 350 students at Kinard Elementary School cheered as Trirons father stationed in Kuwait for the last 10 months walked into the school gym in his U.S. Army fatigues, hoisted Triron and his 3-year-old brother on his shoulder and hugged them hard.
How did you get here? Triron asked his dad, U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Triron James, in stunned surpise.
His younger brother, Makhi, just beamed.
Dad and his two sons could not stop smiling as the school watched their joyful reunion.
It means a whole lot, Sgt. James said later. I cant even fathom what to say about it. . . .Just to see their faces and to be involved, not just with them, but with the whole school.
The reunion during a school assembly was orchestrated by James wife, Marquita James, 29, with the help of Trirons teacher, Natalie Adams, and Kinard Principal Kathy Weathers.
He really loves school, Marquita James said about her oldest son, and we just wanted to do something special for him. We wanted to surprise the kids at school. We wanted to share it with everyone.
The couple said the boys have kept in touch with their dad through Skype, but they did not know he was coming home. They ask, Dad, when are you coming home? the elder Triron said. I didnt tell them.
Triron said he had learned about two months ago that he would be coming home. Marquita and Trirons teacher got this idea (for the reunion) and just took off with it, he said.
Weathers and the staff planned the reunion during an assembly that would focus on the school theme of leadership. This is a fabulous opportunity to have a very obvious example of local leadership, national leadership, Weathers said.
Kindergarten students sang a song for the school, and then Weathers announced that she needed a volunteer from the kindergarten class on stage. She called Triron and his younger brother up to talk with her.
Weathers talked about leadership, then asked Triron if anyone in his family was a model of leadership. He immediately named his father, who he said has served in the military for about 20 years.
The elder Triron walked in as Triron and Makhi watched in awed surprise.
Marquita James said her husband returned from Kuwait Friday; the couple spent a few days alone in Charlotte reconnecting over the weekend. The boys had no idea he was home, she said, until Mondays school assembly.
James, a Hartsville native who has served in the Army for seven years, said he worked in a logistics in Kuwait, tasked with moving equipment and fuel. Now, hes home on leave until August.
In the fall, he said, hell be attending a six-month training program to become an officer. He doesnt know where that will be. But he knows that he plans a lifetime career in the military.
For now, though, James said he just plans to spend time with his family and with Trirons school.
One of his first tasks on that front was sitting down and reading a book to Trirons kindergarten class. The topic of the book? The American flag.