EASLEY – For nearly a year, Hunter Dodd and Chandler Pittman have been without their father Chris Page.
Tuesday afternoon, that all changed.
Page, a U.S. Army veteran, has been stationed in Afghanistan for the past year. With help from Easley High and Gettys Middle school officials, the boys’ mother, Natasha, orchestrated a surprise return to each of the schools.
Dodd, the Battalion Commander in Easley High’s ROTC program, attended an assembly Tuesday morning to receive a medal for his Orienteering team’s efforts. Just as Chief Stauder began to place the medal around his neck, however, Dodd’s father appeared and the startled son dawned a look of shock.
Page and Dodd embraced amidst a standing ovation conducted by the entire student body.
A tearful Hunter expressed his excitement following the surprise.
“This is a dream come true,” said Dodd. “This is what I have been dreaming about and I am so glad that he is back. I want to be just like him, a leader for my country.”
Page said the reunion was better than he thought it could be.
“This was better than I thought it could be,” Page said. “I hardly knew anything about it when I first got here, but it was great.”
Easley High Principal Tim Mullis said he was proud his school could play a role in the celebration.
“It was an awesome way for EHS to support our military families,” Mullis said. “Our student body really stepped up and showed their patriotism today. This is one of those life changing moments.”
Page still had one more stop on his itinerary, however.
Once the surprise concluded at Easley, the family headed across town to Gettys to see their other son.
Pittman, along with several other students at the middle school, is charged with caring for the American flag flying in front of the school, and an assembly was called late Tuesday morning to highlight this group of students.
As Chandler’s name was called and he took his place alongside the other students, Page was there to greet his younger son. In what was an identical reaction to the one at Easley High, a standing ovation ensued as father and son embraced.
Pittman said he became suspicious when he saw cameras in the room, but said he was really surprised and happy to see his father after such a long separation.
“It was awesome and I am glad (my wife) did this,” said Page. “It was all her, it was all my wife.”
Natasha said that she called both schools and asked them to help.
“The schools were great,” Natasha Page said. “They did everything. They just told me where to be and what time, and it worked out great.”
With their father now home and a happy family now reunited, Natasha and her boys say it was all worth it.
“We can breathe now,” she said.