RENO, Nev. (AP) — A Nevada National Guardsman has marked the end of a one-year deployment in Afghanistan with a surprise Father's Day weekend homecoming with his wife and six children at the Reno Rodeo.
Chief Warrant Officer Glen Spadin of Sparks, Nevada, was greeted by hugs from his son and five daughters during a Patriot Night ceremony Friday arranged by the rodeo, Nevada Army National Guard and his wife, Maja.
His children, who range in age from 6 months to 9 years, were not told about his arrival home beforehand. They were called to the arena floor along with their mother for the ceremony by the rodeo announcer.
Two rodeo officials on horseback then entered the arena, with the animals shielding Spadin, who was on foot. The children reacted with a mixture of shock and excitement when he suddenly emerged from behind the horses.
"Some of them cried, and some were running around and just kind of hugging and holding on to me," he said. "My son said it was like a dream."
A crowd of some 9,000 gave a standing ovation.
Spadin, a fixed-wing aircraft pilot who conducted surveillance of enemy personnel in Afghanistan, said he missed his family during the deployment and this will be his favorite Father's Day ever.
Since his deployment began in June 2014, he was only able to pay a short visit home in December. Plans call for the family to take short trips for hiking and swimming over the next 42 days before he has to return to his full-time job as a unit commander for the Army National Guard.
"It's a relief that I'm back with my wife and kids," said Spadin, a veteran of the 1991 Gulf War in Kuwait. "It's sort of like a dream now, a whole other world.
"I really learned how much I missed them during this tour and how good we have it in America. There were so many places in Afghanistan that didn't have plumbing. It was hard to see the kids over there and the conditions they were growing up in."