Local News

Army dad's homecoming surprises Johnston County kids

Posted June 8, 2012 3:24 p.m. EDT
Updated June 8, 2012 7:09 p.m. EDT

— A Johnston County soldier deployed for a year in South Korea returned home Friday to the surprise of his two young children caught off guard at their elementary school.

Eight-year-old Austin Jernigan and 9-year-old Micala Jernigan and their classmates were dancing in the gymnasium at Corinth-Holders Elementary School in Zebulon when Toby Keith's "American Soldier" blared from the school's sound system and out walked Army Sgt. Michael Jernigan.

"It's something different. They've always known when I'm coming home," Jernigan, 28, said. "It's exciting. I'm just glad to see them. I'm just glad to be home with them."

Jernigan and his wife, Joy, had been hiding in a utility closet waiting for the moment. The kids thought their dad was coming home next month.

"I think they were shocked," Joy Jernigan said. "They couldn't even speak for a minute. They weren't quite sure it was real, and then, when they realized it was, I think they were overjoyed."

Sgt. Jernigan will be home for 30 days before he returns to South Korea for another year.

Until then, the family is planning on catching up on all the activities they normally don't get to do together. This weekend, they've planned a trip to Busch Gardens.

"It means everything to come home and to see them. They understand the job I do," Sgt. Jernigan said. "They support me, and that's the biggest thing."