With patriotic tunes playing from a speaker filling Owatin Creek's outdoor amphitheater, first grader Caleb Landeck was selected from his classmates and asked to stand facing the crowd and hold a "very special" flag. Standing silently at attention, Caleb waited for his next instructions as a man dressed in Army fatigues silently walked up behind him and knelt down. Caleb then felt a tap at his shoulder. Turning around slowly to his confusion and then delight, Caleb found his dad, whom he hadn't seen for almost a year. Throwing his arms his neck, Caleb hugged his dad as he lifted him up into the air to cheers from students, teachers and administrators who had come out for this very special homecoming.
Sergeant First Class Michael Landeck was finally home.
The Exeter dad is a 23-year veteran of the United States Army National Guard, has completed five tours in Bosnia, Iraq (twice) and Kuwait (twice), and received a Meritorious Service Medal during his most recent deployment to Kuwait. He's been gone and away from his family--Samantha, his wife; and his two sons Caleb (6) and Emmett (2)--since he was deployed last November. Humbled by Mike's service and his family's sacrifice, a friend of the Landecks, Lee Pace, wanted to celebrate Mike's homecoming in a "big way," by asking the school district if they'd allow Exeter first responders to escort Mike to Owatin Creek and surprise Caleb at school. Under the guise of a "pink out patriotic" assembly, Pace worked with local first responders, administrators and Principal Charlie Payne to make the surprise happen.
Happy to have her husband and the father of her sons finally home safely, Samantha said that Mike is looking forward to retirement from a career in the military, catching up with his family and young sons, and perhaps starting a career in woodworking. "I'm so very proud of him for the sacrifices he has made to serve his country and thrilled to have him home safely with our family," she said, adding as her family was surrounded by reporters, "Today was just unforgettable."