Deployed dad's return completes 'family puzzle'

  • Published
  • By John Ingle
  • 82nd Training Wing Public Affairs
The siblings didn't see their father, Tech. Sgt. Brad Burt, when they originally rounded the corner from the west wing of their school Feb. 27. The 361st Training Squadron instructor here bellowed, "Hey!" to get the children's attention. 

It took them a half second to identify their target, but once they did, Austin and Camryn Burt flew across the Sheppard Elementary School foyer like cruise missiles. They exploded into shouts of, "Daddy!" and ran toward the Airman, tears already overtaking the confusion that existed moments before.

Sergeant Burt, an aerospace ground equipment instructor, and his wife, Deanna, carried out the planned surprise reunion that has been in the works for several months.

The Burt family separation began about six months ago when Sergeant Burt was deployed to Iraq to help train Iraqi air force aircraft maintainers. He said it was the first time since his children were babies that he deployed.

The husband and wife agreed that separation during a deployment can be difficult, so Sergeant Burt took interest in a predeployment tip to make it easier on his children. All it took was a couple sheets of paper and a crayon.

"He sat down with the kids (before he left) and drew his hand out, and they drew their hands out," Mrs. Burt said. "They swapped them and he told them if they ever missed him, they could pull (the drawing) out and just put their hand on it and he would be right there with them. They did it often."

Sergeant Burt explained that when his children were babies, they didn't fully grasp the hardships of separation. Now that they're older, he said it's different because they understand what it means to have a missing piece to the family puzzle.

Mrs. Burt called their reunion "network complete." 

Her husband agreed, adding that returning home has filled in the final missing piece.

"Like my wife says, we are a puzzle," he said. "I was the only piece missing. Waiting for that puzzle piece to come home and be reunited means the world to me."

A testament to the Burt's close-knit family has to do with the annual holiday that has children bouncing off the walls and scurrying from closet to closet looking for hidden Christmas gifts.

But for Austin and Camryn, Christmas just wasn't Christmas without daddy. They said they decided to put off Christmas until their father returned home; an unselfish gesture that resounds with gratitude and deep love for dad.

"We wanted to wait for daddy to come home to do it with him," Camryn said.

Mrs. Burt said the decision to wait wasn't prompted by her or her husband. It was a decision solely made by the siblings. That is what would make their Christmas in February a cherished memory.

"Especially to know that the kids made that call," she said. "They made the decision that they didn't want to do it without him."

That even meant not opening presents during Christmastime at a relative's house, Mrs. Burt said.

When the local media heard about Sergeant Burt's plan to surprise his children, they wanted to be there to document it. Sergeant Burt said he wasn't expecting reporters and cameras at the school when he arrived, all he was looking to do was surprise his children.

"It worked out (to be) way more than I expected," he said. "I just wanted to do one of those, 'Hey, someone's coming in today' (events). It worked out really (well)."

Comment on this story (comments may be published on Air Force Link)

View the comments/letters page