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Hugs and Tears as a Marine Dad Surprises His Third-Grader at School

Show-and-tell at Fry Elementary School in Burbank became extra special for everyone that day.

U.S. Marine Joshua Avila surprises his son, Connor, at Fry Elementary School in Burbank, IL. | Dist. 111
U.S. Marine Joshua Avila surprises his son, Connor, at Fry Elementary School in Burbank, IL. | Dist. 111

For most of Connor Avila’s young life, his father, Joshua, has been away serving his country with the U.S. Marines in the Middle East.

Whenever the third-grader is having a bad day, Connor goes to the "hero wall" inside his school where students post photos of relatives serving in the military and he talks to his dad's picture.

So when his teacher and principal at Fry Elementary School in Burbank learned Joshua Avila was coming home on leave from Saudi Arabia, they arranged for Connor's dad to surprise his son during a show-and-tell session on April 23.

"We still have show-and-tell in third grade. They get excited about it," Connor’s teacher, Tony Pak, said. "Connor is always talking about his dad. It’s just a therapeutic way to deal with his dad being far away in a crazy situation."

Connor had no idea his dad was standing outside in the hallway as he talked about him during show-and-tell.

Holding a black-and-white version of his father's photo hanging on the hero wall, Connor talked about Saudi Arabia ("it’s really hot") and his father’s favorite hobby ("me").

Earlier that morning, Fry principal, Mary Rein, had the morning art classes make patriotic decorations so the hallway was filled with red, white and blue stars, flags and construction paper chains when Joshua Avila arrived.

Rein said Connor’s teacher had prepared to have Joshua speak to the students about being in the service, but the lesson plan quickly went by the wayside.

"Everybody was crying," the principal said. "The kids were so moved they were crying. Once Connor and his father hugged, nobody else was in the room."

She describes Connor as an interesting boy, who knows facts unknown to most people, about his dad’s uniform, Saudi Arabia and the animal kingdom.

"I think Connor deeply misses his father," Rein said. "There are a lot of issues for kids whose parents are in the service. It’s very stressful. These children have a heavy load and they still have to come to school and function."


Patricia Thomas Ingram May 06, 2014 at 01:46 PM
I love to see these videos. The joy and love on their faces just makes you want to cry. There might be 10,000 videos out there but only one for the family that gets suprised. and no one has to watch them.
Steven Narbonne May 06, 2014 at 02:25 PM
God bless the Marine and his child. Bring all our troops home. Let the Arabs dish it out with each other. Guard our own borders instead.
sandy digangi {mr gyros} 10806 s. cicero May 06, 2014 at 10:57 PM
Really...enough already ? How could you even say that ? That video touches the heart and I was so proud to be able to see this.. I wonder where you would be Charles if that solider said that when he was asked to go fight for your freedom ?
Joan Melillo May 08, 2014 at 05:58 AM
beautiful story got tears
Andrea May 11, 2014 at 12:47 AM
Not even half way through, the tears started.

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