Home for the holidays, soldier surprises sister

by Peter Jakey-Managing Editor

A Millersburg teen got the best holiday gift she could have hoped for Wednesday.

Spc. Travis Stalker paid a surprise visit to his sister, eighth-grader Andrea Stalker, after returning home from a deployment to Afghanistan. The two have not seen each other for nine months.

Travis, who is the son of Jay and Marie Stalker of Millersburg and a 2010 Onaway High School graduate, was wearing Army fatigues when he walked toward her classroom at Rogers City Middle School. The classes had just changed for the final hour of the day.

Andrea was told a little fib from her mother that Travis was flying in later that evening. Andrea was really excited about his arrival and wanted to stay home from school to see him. Marie said there was no need, since the plane wasn’t going to arrive until the evening.

His plane actually landed in Alpena early in the afternoon.   Marie picked Travis up and they drove to Rogers City.

Marie had set it up with principal David O’Bryant the day before, who told Andrea’s sixth hour teacher Matt Ponik to be prepared for a little excitement.

There was some commotion at the door when one of Andrea’s classmates said, “Andrea, your mother is here.”

It was about that moment Travis walked to the front of the room, and without a sound, she sprung from her second row desk and into his arms for an emotional embrace in front of a packed classroom.

“She was shocked,” said Marie, who signed her daughter out for the rest of the day. Then, it was off to see other members of the family and more surprises.

Travis went to boot camp at Fort Benning, Georgia in September 2010. He recently returned to his current base at Fort Knox, Kentucky for debriefing, which includes long stretches of no contact with friends and family.

His leave will continue until Jan. 6, and like many soldiers, he will return to Afghanistan for another tour in 2013.