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Father returns from Afghanistan, surprises daughter at graduation

Gabe Farmer, Democrat Correspondent • Dec 15, 2015 at 2:01 PM

One Wilson County student brought home more than a diploma recently.

Graduation ceremonies were held June 1 at Middle Tennessee State University for Wilson Central High School seniors. There, the graduating class of 2013 walked across the stage and received the diplomas for which they were working and anticipating. 

When Briana Heermans began to walk across the stage to receive her diploma, the principal announced, “At this time, the director of schools would like to make a special presentation.” 

At that moment, Briana’s father, Lt. Cmdr. Brian Heermans, made his way onto the stage.

“Her dad came out, and she ran across the stage and jumped into his arms and sobbed.” said Joie Pate, Briana's mother, of the surprise.

Brian Heermans had just returned from deployment in Afghanistan, which Pate said no one in the family knew of.

“No one in our family knew that my daughter’s dad was coming in from Afghanistan,” Pate said. 

Pate described it as a moment to be cherished.

Not only did Heermans get to attend his daughter’s graduation, but he was also able to present Briana’s diploma to her himself. 

“It was a perfect day that we both shall always remember," said Brian Heermans on Facebook following the ceremony. "The audience cheered, and most were in tears...It was also wonderful being able to present her with her diploma. I am truly blessed.

“I was so happy to make her graduation and show her how proud I am of her.”

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