Sunday, June 17, 2018
Military News

Army dad returns from war, surprises daughter at Dunedin Elementary

DUNEDIN

Her head turned. She paused a moment, her eyes registering. A smile quickly slid across her face.

Seconds later, 9-year-old Trista Sarles-Redfield was up from the reading mat in her Dunedin Elementary classroom and wrapping her arms around her father, Army Maj. Jerry Bud Redfield, while her fourth-grade teacher, classmates and camera-ready reporters and school personnel looked on.

Home early from a yearlong tour in Afghanistan, Jerry surprised Trista at school Thursday morning.

The 37-year-old Army infantry officer and Afghanistan/Pakistan leadership liaison hugged the girl close before handing her a half-dozen roses. Pink, her favorite color.

"I missed you," Trista said, unearthing her face from his embrace to look up at him.

Trista had been expecting her dad home Friday. But in between the weekly phone calls, monthly Skype video chats and regular letters, Jerry had been devising a plan to surprise both Trista and her mother, Amanda Redfield.

The plan was partially derailed when an emergency prevented a friend from picking him up at Tampa International Airport about 11 p.m. Wednesday. Jerry had to call Amanda for a ride.

His wife and mother-in-law, now both in on the secret, sneaked him into their Clearwater home, past their cat and two dogs, while Trista slept.

For nearly two hours Thursday morning, Jerry hid in his bedroom closet with a book while Trista flitted about the house getting ready for school.

Hours later, Amanda watched Trista fight back tears during the reunion with the man who has formed a strong bond with Trista over the last five years, even though he is not her biological father. A "devastated" Trista had cried for three months after her father left, Amanda said, and each day after that asked when he'd return.

"He's not a talkative person at all, but when it comes to those two, they talk all the time," said Amanda, 35. "They have their own little secrets and codes for things. The only thing she asked Santa for was her daddy and we had to explain that would make him AWOL — it's breaking the law."

Amanda hung back Thursday while Jerry and Trista headed to the school cafeteria for an early lunch.

After all, the duo had a long list of activities to plan: Going to the movies. Playing the board game Risk. Taking Trista, who grew 4 inches while her father was away, for her first roller-coaster ride on SheiKra — something she refused to do without daddy.

With roughly 16 months before his next deployment, Redfield said he's looking forward to one thing the most: "Seeing her grow up."

Keyonna Summers can be reached at (727) 445-4153 or [email protected]

Comments
Howard Altman: New Port Richey veteran out front in campaign for burn-pit benefits

Howard Altman: New Port Richey veteran out front in campaign for burn-pit benefits

Last week, the halls of Congress became the latest battleground in a campaign by tens of thousands of veterans seeking acknowledgment of the health problems they suffer from exposure to open-air refuse burn pits in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.Nav...
Published: 06/14/18
Airman with top-secret clearance, who disappeared in 1983, is discovered living in California

Airman with top-secret clearance, who disappeared in 1983, is discovered living in California

Before he mysteriously disappeared and landed on the Air Force Most Wanted list, Capt. William Howard Hughes Jr. phoned home to tell his mother and father that he was going to the Netherlands.It was July 17, 1983, and the Air Force was sending Hughes...
Published: 06/12/18

Marine Corps weighs wooing older members for new cyber force

SAN DIEGO ó The head of the Marine Corps says itís time the U.S. military branch known for its fierce, young warriors becomes a little more mature. The Marine Corps is considering offering bonuses and other perks to entice older, more experienced Mar...
Published: 06/08/18
Updated: 06/09/18
Military members stationed overseas fret as flying pets home gets harder

Military members stationed overseas fret as flying pets home gets harder

Missy Lee, a civilian who works for the U.S. Army, paid Delta Air Lines $5,000 to transport her two white shepherds as cargo on the same flight she took when moving to Japan in 2014.In the years since, the industry of shipping pets overseas has drast...
Published: 06/07/18
Howard Altman: Calls to veterans hotline jump after program expands statewide

Howard Altman: Calls to veterans hotline jump after program expands statewide

During the first three months of its expanded, statewide hotline for veterans, the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay estimates about 2,000 former service members called in seeking help because they were considering suicide.Thatís a powerful testament to the...
Published: 06/06/18
Updated: 06/13/18
How to spot neo-Nazis in the military? Brandon Russell case shows how hard it is

How to spot neo-Nazis in the military? Brandon Russell case shows how hard it is

When Brandon Russell joined the Florida Army National Guard in January 2016, the service noted the radiation-warning symbol tattooed on his right shoulder.No one saw it as suspicious. Seventeen months later, it figured into the slaying of two young m...
Published: 06/04/18
Howard Altman: New base commander at sultry MacDill helped run South Pole airlifts

Howard Altman: New base commander at sultry MacDill helped run South Pole airlifts

One of the most frustrating aspects of covering the military is how often change takes place.Just when you start to get to someone, boom, they move on.The latest case in point is Air Force Col. April Vogel, commander of the 6th Air Mobility Wing at M...
Updated one month ago
From the archives: A story for Jake

From the archives: A story for Jake

Editorís note: This story was originally published on May 27, 2007. It is being republished in honor of Memorial Day.Oct. 22, 2006, approx. 7:30 p.m.,St. Lawrence Catholic Church, TampaShe makes her way down the aisle of a church, eyes locked on the ...
Updated one month ago
Sun City Center veteran finds honor in remembrance

Sun City Center veteran finds honor in remembrance

Editorís note: Times correspondent Bob Black, a resident of Sun City Center, shares his thoughts about the Honor Flight of West Central Florida he enjoyed in April. The organization strives to recognize U.S. Veterans for their sacrifice and service b...
Updated one month ago

Security troops on U.S. nuclear missile base took LSD

WASHINGTON ó One airman said he felt paranoia. Another marveled at the vibrant colors. A third admitted, "I absolutely just loved altering my mind." Meet service members entrusted with guarding nuclear missiles that are among the most powerful in Ame...
Updated one month ago