HARKER HEIGHTS — Of all the blessings worthy of thanks, maybe none are more powerful and heartfelt than that of a certain Harker Heights High School sophomore.
“I’m just glad he’s home,” said Jeremiah Walls.
In a purposely brief and private ceremony in the school cafeteria before lunchtime Thursday, 1st Sgt. Jamie Walls presented to his youngest son a U.S. flag that flew over his unit’s duty station in Syria.
With wife and mother, Sharon, and son and brother, Samuel, watching, the uniformed soldier and his high school son embraced on an almost empty stage in an almost empty cafeteria.
The soldier returned home with other soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division’s 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team a few days earlier and arranged for the flag ceremony Thursday, the day before school ended for a weeklong Thanksgiving holiday.
For a family so accustomed to the challenging uncertainty of deployment, the Walls enjoy a certain sense of tradition.
They have done this before.
In March 2009, Walls presented his older son a flag from a combat deployment to Iraq. That was when Samuel Walls was a fourth-grader at Meadows Elementary School. He graduated from Harker Heights High School in May and is a student at Central Texas College.
For the Fort Hood soldier, the flag ceremonies at his sons’ schools are about thanking his family for their sacrifice.
“Today for me was about a reunion with my family, particularly my son, Jeremiah,” Jamie Walls said.
School administrators called the young man to the cafeteria, where he waited at the foot of the stage.
His dad, in uniform, stepped from behind a closed curtain to reveal the flag and the surprise. The family actually reunited four days previously, but the ceremony and the flag were a surprise.
“I was going to cry when I saw him,” the high school student said. “I’m just glad he’s home.”
The family is planning a Thanksgiving trip to Louisiana to see extended family members.
“We make sacrifices as soldiers, but it’s the family members who make the ultimate sacrifice,” the soldier father said. “It’s a struggle for the kids when a parent is gone.”
A veteran of nine deployments in a 22-year career, Walls said it hardly feels real to be home again.
“It doesn’t feel real right now, but being back is a good feeling,” he said. “It’s good to be doing father-son things again.”