IMLAY CITY — Friday was a special day for students and staff at Weston Elementary. It was extra special for first grader Liara Wise, she just didn't know it until the final bell rang.
There, among the gathering of active duty military and veterans participating in the school's second annual Silent Dismissal in honor of Memorial Day, was her dad George Wise, a lieutenant in the United States Air Force, who was able to make a surprise visit home to Michigan for the holiday weekend.
Lt. Wise, who's a 2007 Imlay City High School graduate, is currently training in Florida and Liara thought she wouldn't have been able to reunite with him until next month when he completes his duties in Florida and their family–which includes mom and wife, Janine–relocates to Georgia.
"I'm happy to be home even if only for a little while...every day counts," George said, upon arriving at school.
George Wise surprised daughter Liara at Weston Elementary School Friday during the school's Silent Dismissal. Helping make the surprise possible were Liara's mom Janine and grandma Sallie. photo by Maria Brown.
Liara obviously agreed. She didn't have many words to express her emotions, but she clung to her dad's hand as the family walked away from the school that afternoon.
In her other hand was
a heart-shaped flag she
Veterans and active military personnel were invited to line the sidewalk as youngsters exited the school in silence, carrying handmade American flags and other patriotic artwork to show their appreciation for the sacrifices made by many.
When Liara walked past her dad, mom and grandma she dutifully stayed in line with her classmates until her teacher Jamie Delboy encouraged her to run and greet her dad with a hug.
Liara and Janine have been apart from George for nearly nine months. When a hurricane destroyed their home on the Air Force base in Florida, Janine and Liara opted to move back to Michigan to stay with George's mom, Sallie Wise.
"We've been able to talk to each other every day," George said.
In June, the family of three will finally reunite when George is stationed at Robbins Air Force Base in Georgia. George, who's an air battle manager, has served five and half years in the military.
Weston Principal Devon Caudill said the Silent Dismissal event has become a special tradition for students and staff after just two years. The idea was suggested by physical education teacher Julie Shanks and Borland Elementary participated as well this year.
Maria Brown joined the Tri-City Times staff in 2003, the same year she earned a bachelor's degree in English from Calvin College. Born and raised in Imlay City, she and her family reside in the Capac area where she enjoys gardening and reading.