DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – One local military family got the ultimate surprise this Memorial Day.
Their son – who’s been deployed in Afghanistan since August – showed up right before Monday’s Dragon’s game at Fifth Third Field for a reunion with his parents and sister.
The Kirtley family thought they were in town for a behind the scenes look at the stadium for military families, until twenty-three year old combat medic Mitchell Kirtley, flowers in hand, showed up to embraced his family for the first time in nine months.
“I first saw them, I almost started crying,” Kirtley said.
“I was like, ‘Nope, nope! A few more seconds, few more steps…’ Everything’s rushing, my heart’s pounding as faster than it’s ever have.
“[I’m] excited to finally see them and be home with them. Finally get to hug them, kiss them, annoy the daylights out of them.”
Having served in Afghanistan, since August, Kirtley has missed major holidays like Christmas and Easter.
Originally from Sidney Ohio, he drove into Dayton Sunday night from his base in Tennessee to see and surprise his family on Memorial Day.
He and his 16-year-old sister Madalyn were in tears and they shared a warm embrace.
“He’s always been my body guard,” Madalyn said.
“I’ve been through a lot with helping my mom and he knows it. But just having him back means so much.”
His mother, Jodi Kirtley suffers from MS and had an experimental surgery to improve her mobility while her son was deployed.
Today, she stood-up from her wheelchair to walk to her son and give him an embrace.
“I’m happy. I won’t let him go back,” she said.
“I’m just happy to see him. Happy to see him back here and all in one piece.”
Clad in a shirt emblazoned with the words, “My Son, My Soldier, My Hero”, Mitchell Kirtley’s father said the family suspected something might be up, but they didn’t want to get their hopes up.
“She [Jodi Kirtley] kept saying he’s coming. I know he’s coming. This is way too fishy so he’s going to be there,” Ben Kirtley said.
“I just kept telling her: You might expect it, but it may not happen.”
Kirtley gets to spend a couple of week here at home with his family in Sidney before he has to report for duty once more, in June.