CLEARWATER - It seemed inevitable that Edgar Jusino, stationed in Kuwait, would miss Countryside High School's graduation.
Or so his daughter Chelsea thought.
"I have missed many important dates in your life," Jusino said as video of him flashed on the JumboTron at Bright House Field today. "For this I am sorry."
But as his daughter wiped tears from her eyes, Jusino reminded her that he will always take care of her.
"I want you to know I will always be there for you in your most difficult times."
Following the video message, Darren Ayres, brigade chaplain of the rear division of the 53rd infantry brigade of the Florida National Guard, presented Chelsea with flowers.
Edgar Jusino approached the school in December just before he going overseas where he is assisting with convoys in and out of Iraq, He filmed his special message at Countryide's TV studio. Before today, only a few school officials knew about the video message.
In a telephone interview, Jusino said that "hard is not the word" to describe how difficult it is to be away from his family at times like this.
"On the phone with her now I had to hold back some tears," he said.
"I was so surprised," Chelsea said in a phone call to her father after the ceremony. "I loved it."
And then: "It's okay, daddy. I love you."
Sara Gregory can be reached at (727) 893-8785 or firstname.lastname@example.org.