Soldier surprises son with heartfelt homecoming

Father and son reunite in a surprise homecoming held at C.E. Murray High School. Home after spending a nine-month tour in Afghanistan, Army Staff Sergeant Ronald Canty walked in the school's gym during the morning assembly and surprised Ronald, Jr. in a well organized and secret plan by mother Deloris.

C.E. Murray High School eighth grade student Ronald Canty got the surprise of a lifetime last Friday - even if it took some before convincing the 14-year-old the surprise was aimed at him. Army Staff Sgt. Ronald Canty, Sr. surprised his son when he walked into morning assembly at C.E. Murray High School after being on tour in Afghanistan for the past nine months.

Before the big reveal the students that had gathered in the gymnasium knew something was up. Most were focused on the odd behavior exhibited by several administrative personnel who had gathered in the middle of the basketball court - looking around and whispering amongst each other. Suddenly from the far end of the gym a tall uniformed man strolled nonchalantly across the floor and stopped center court.

Silence gave way to chatter spreading among the students, but no one was certain who this soldier is. The unsuspecting star of the show sat on the front row only foots away - squinting hard at the man. Finally, two school personnel approach the boy and nudged his arm. As they prodded the young man, the stranger in military fatigues made his way toward him, calling out, "Don't you know who this is?"  The student rises and as he makes his way across the floor the room began to fill with giggles then screams of joy, reaching fever pitch as father and son reunite in a hardy bear hug.  Afterward the two were joined by brother Javian, Mrs. Canty, and Ronald's aunt Mary Conyers, as they celebrated with hugs and shaking hands with teachers, staff and students.

After nine months from home Ronald, Sr.'s first impression was that his son had changed - dramatically. "When I left, he was short," said the staff sergeant. "Now he's taller than me." Ronald, Jr. saw a change in his father as well, which was one reason he was hesitant in the gym. "He had hair when he left," said the statuesque eighth grader. The other reason - he was missing his glasses.

Canty, Sr.'s mother, Deloris, was given notice of Ronald's return a week before and wanted to do something special for him. "I wanted to do a "coming home" like the (TV) show so I called (C.E. Murray principal) Dr. Gamble and she thought that would be great," she said. "I didn't want to disrupt the class so we decided to have it before school began at assembly." She kept the homecoming a guarded secret, even among district staff and administration until the critical moment arrived.

"What a wonderful gift," said District Superintendent Yvonne Jefferson-Barnes of the reunion. "And what a beautiful surprise for all of you. I am truly happy for all of you." As the family prepared to leave Jefferson-Barnes gave the youngster permission to take the rest of the day off; however, the honor roll student declined. After all, a couple more hours of schoolwork won't hurt when he has his dad for the rest of the weekend.