Raleigh, N.C. — As students buzzed around the Duke Energy Center in Raleigh on Tuesday to prepare for graduation ceremonies, Lt. Col. Marty Reigher was tucked away in a corner, trying to be inconspicuous in his Army uniform.
“I think this is more stressful than some of the military missions I’ve been on waiting for the word to go,” he joked.
Tuesday’s mission was unlike any other for Reigher, who took leave from his nine-month deployment in Iraq to be at his daughter Anna’s graduation from Middle Creek High School.
Dressed in her cap and gown, Anna Reigher mingled with her classmates, unaware her father was so close.
“She's going off to college before I get back from my deployment,” dad said. “So (it’s) a bittersweet hello and goodbye.”
A few deep breaths later, Anna rounded the corner to get her diploma and realized her dad was standing there.
“I love you,” Marty Reigher said. “I wouldn't miss this day for the world.”
Anna said later the surprise was the best graduation gift she could have asked for - one she dreamed of a few nights ago.
“I had a dream that he was actually here and then I woke up and I was like, ‘Oh, it can't be.’”
Anna didn’t realize how close her dream was to reality. While she was sleeping, her father was secretly holed up at the neighbor’s house in Apex. He arrived three days earlier but didn’t want to give away the surprise to his family.
Then, on Tuesday, Reigher called his wife, Maggie, with instructions to “pick up” Anna’s graduation gift at the neighbors.
Reigher is home for nine days before he returns to Iraq to finish his deployment. He said he plans to take his 11-year-old son, Lee, fishing.