LANGLEY PARK – Langley Park McCormick Elementary Principal Amy Stout has been keeping a secret—but on Friday she finally revealed what she had been hiding to her staff and one very special student.
In the midst of Career Day, U.S. Army Sgt. Dellion Sitladin made his return from a tour in Afghanistan, surprising his son, D.J. and the rest of the class.
“(Sitladin) has been gone since last summer and D.J. is in fifth grade. He doesn’t know (his father) is here,” Stout said.
When D.J. first saw his father, he jumped out of his seat on the cafeteria table bench and ran to his dad with arms reaching for a hug.
Sitladin, a 14-year military veteran, traveled all night on Thursday to surprise his son at school just a couple of days before Father’s Day.
But first, he had to surprise his wife, Kerry, who works at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. The surprises, Sitladin said, went exactly as planned.
Jodi Fochler, D.J.’s fifth-grade homeroom teacher said she was excited for the surprise reunion. While she has seen surprise reunions between soldiers and their loved ones on television, she said this was the first one she would see live.
“I think it’s going to be really exciting. I’ve seen it (on the news) and it makes everybody cry,” said Fochler, who only found out about the plan a couple of hours before. “I know it’s going to be exciting because D.J. was escorting the parents around today and he was asking all kinds of questions and telling them about his father.”
After 11 months in Afghanistan, Sitladin found himself almost at a loss for words. “I can’t explain,” he said. “It’s been 11 months. I talk to him a lot, but it’s not the same.”
While Sitladin was abroad extended family members stepped in to help care for his son.
“I know that it was a concern for dad to be gone and things like that but (D.J.) has had a great support system and his grandfather has been here who has been instrumental in keeping everything together and his mom,” Stout said. “D.J. has really matured over the year. He’s stepped up to the plate.”
Now that Sitladin is home, he said he looks forward to spending time with his family.
“We have a lot of vacation plans—Disney World, Jamaica—and I’ll be here for a while,” Sitladin said. “I’m on reset so on rest you’re going to be gone for a while, a year or so. I’m glad to be home.”
Now that her husband is home, Kerry’s plans are to spend time with him.“I’m just happy he’s home and well,” she said.