It was a covert operation, veiled in secrecy and subterfuge. For days, plans were made with secret phone calls, meetings and texts to keep Northwood Schools students Tayler and Haley Metcalf in the dark.
The conspiracy started with the girls’ mom Shannon, and her father Todd, a Technical Sergeant with the 180th Fighter Wing, Ohio Air National Guard.
Tayler, an eighth-grader and Haley, a senior, expected their dad, who had been deployed to Afghanistan since May, to come home at Thanksgiving.
A few weeks ago, Shannon found out Todd would be coming home Nov. 6. The couple decided to make Todd’s arrival a surprise.
“He wanted to do something special for them,” Shannon said. “He felt especially bad that he missed a lot of important things in Haley’s senior year.”
Shannon went to work making a plan for how to keep Todd’s homecoming from the girls. There were many whispered conversations and sneaky texts back and forth to family members and friends.
As Todd’s arrival date neared, Shannon spoke with Northwood High School Principal Jason Kozina principal to work out details for the top secret surprise for his daughters.
“Initially, we proposed going to go in and surprise the girls in each of their classrooms,” Shannon said. “Mr. Kozina said, `Yea, that’s a good idea.’
“He hung up and called me back and said he had a better idea,” she said. “He came up with a plan to surprise them during lunch period in the cafeteria.”
When the “secret mission” was finalized, Shannon texted one of Todd’s fellow Northwood firefighters. “They wanted to be there for Todd and the girls. They are actually very cool friends,” Shannon said.
On Nov. 6, Shannon joyfully greeted Todd at the Toledo Express airport, joined by her mother-in-law, some family members and friends. To Todd’s surprise, several members of the Northwood Fire Department were also on hand to welcome him home with signs.
As Todd spent his first night at home in almost six months, Tayler was staying with her grandmother and Haley was sleeping over at a friend’s house.
“They thought that I was out of town for work,” Shannon said. “I wasn’t worried about Tayler, but because Haley drives, I had some concerns that she might try to go home, but I kept in touch with her friends through text messages. They kept her busy.”
The next day, just after 11 o’clock, the firefighters arrived at the school and hid out of the way in a small room just off the school office. Todd, holding two bouquets for his daughters, waited in another hallway for Mr. Kozina to finish with his general announcements about yearbook orders. The students’ interest piqued as the principal asked them to put their hands together for Todd Metcalf.
The stunned girls ran to their father, wrapped their arms around him in hugs that were six months in coming.
“I was crying, they were crying – they cried for a long time,” Shannon said. “It’s something they’ll never forget.”