I’ve seen plenty of those surprise homecoming videos. You know the ones, where the returning serviceman or woman returns from duty early to surprise their kids at school or their parents at home. And no matter how many I’ve seen, the depth of emotion that is displayed during these heartfelt reunions has always touched me.
Well, on April 25th, I had the honour and privilege to personally witness and be a small part of one of those surprises.
Canadian Forces Warrant Officer Renay Groves and her brother, Kevin Spurrell, a Canadian Forces veteran himself, had invited members of the media to an event at Hickman Motors. The two siblings were going to give their mother a new car. Their mom, Marie Spurrell, had never owned a new car and the one she had been driving had broken down. While that was surprise enough, the second part of the surprise was that mom didn’t know her daughter was even in town. Renay had recently returned from serving in Afghanistan but had returned to her base in Kingston, Ont. Her mom hadn’t seen her for quite a while.
So myself, Telegram intern Mark Rendell, Christina Marshall-Jeenes of NTV and Erin Eaton of VOCM arrived early to make sure we were set up to capture the event.
But there was a problem.
While Kevin was bringing his mother there on the pretense of getting her car repaired, the surprise would have been ruined if she saw the media watching her and we swooped down before she realized her daughter was sitting in the new car they were going to give to her. And there was nowhere for us to hide. So we all agreed we would stage a fake interview with a salesman so it would look like we were there in the showroom for some other reason.
Within minutes of us starting our fake interview, Kevin arrived with his mom and directed her to the car, "just to take a look." We moved in and recorded Marie’s surprise at first seeing her daughter and then being told the car she was sitting in was hers. The shock on mom’s face was priceless and there were teary eyes all around. I could see Kevin through the car window and he looked a little choked up, too.
Their plan had gone off without a hitch. It was one of those feel-good moments and a good news story. I’m not ashamed to say I was humbled by the whole event.
Afterwards, Renay took the time to speak to everyone gathered and spoke of the sacrifices her mother and all parents and families of military personnel make. She spoke of the sacrifices that she, her brother and her sister made to serve our country. She spoke of fallen friends and comrades.
She spoke of the some of the issues the men and women serving our country face when they return from a deployment.
She wasn’t pointing fingers. She just spoke earnestly about how much they loved their jobs and serving their country but acknowledged that this service comes at a price.
So, the next time you see a member of the Canadian Forces, give them a smile, shake their hand or just say thank you. That small gesture could make a big difference in their lives that day.