Utah soldier surprises family, unexpectedly shows up for sister’s graduation

HERRIMAN, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) – A local teen had an emotional surprise when her big brother took a break from his military service to show up at her high school graduation rehearsal.

The sentimental surprise has been under wraps for nine months now. The soldier’s commanding officers were in on it, staff at Herriman High School were in on it, but nobody else — including the soldier’s family — had any idea what was about to happen, Wednesday morning.

“I’m nervous…” said Private First Class Nicholas Hughes. “I haven’t seen them in over a year…” he told Good 4 Utah’s Ali Monsen.

Hughes stayed hidden away inside a Herriman High dressing room all morning long. The young soldier — currently stationed in Germany — is also ‘big brother’ to six kids who have struggled adjusting to life without him this year.

“I’m pretty close with all my brothers and sisters. They’re all like my own children to me. I love them with all my heart,” Hughes said.

That is why Hughes contacted Herriman High and asked for permission to surprise his family by showing up at the rehearsal.

“We love our military and we love recognizing them when we have an opportunity to do so,” said Rich Price, Assistant Principal of Herriman High School.

Together, the team worked to devise a plan, which worked out perfectly.

You can see the whole surprise unfold: Price announces that Hughes’s sister, Madison has won an award. He tells the students that Hughes is overseas but wants to congratulate the soon-to-be-graduate in a self-made movie. Everyone could see Madison showing strong emotions.

“I know after graduation you’re going to be very successful. I love you, Maddie…” Hughes says in the video.

Little does anyone know, the real surprise is yet to come. Moments later, Madison and her parents realize Hughes is walking toward them.

It was an emotional reunion full of tears, hugs, group hugs — even a standing ovation from Madison’s classmates.

Afterward, Hughes also met his four month-old brother Jacob for the very first time.

“A lot has happened with us, and I am so grateful for my brother…” Madison told reporters. “He told me he wasn’t going to be able to come, and you know, this is the best, I am so happy right now,” she smiled through tears.

PFC Hughes and his family now have a few days to spend together but after his sister’s graduation, he will return for duty. The soldier is stationed for service in Germany until 2017.

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