OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- A special salute at a metro high school helped reunite an active service member with his loved ones.
She couldn't believe her eyes. Neither could students at Blue Valley West High School, where a special Veterans Day ceremony gathered the entire student body, one day after the official day of observance.
It had been seven months since West freshman Shelby Cain had seen her brother, U.S. Air Force SSgt. Daryn Murphy, and their reunion on Tuesday morning was a sweet one.
The siblings had only seen each other once in the past 18 months. When Shelby spotted her brother across the school's gymnasium, she streaked over to give him a hug.
"I was very confused. I had no idea he was coming into town, but I was excited, so I ran across and hugged him," she said.
Murphy got into town during the weekend. He said he's been hiding out at his brother's apartment in Lawrence, in order to keep this a surprise for their sister.
"It killed me this weekend because I got here, and it killed me to not be able to say, 'Hey, I'm here,'" Murphy said.
Patriotic music blared across the gym, and fellow veterans addressed the student population, as loved ones welcomed home the 8-year military veteran.
Murphy joined the U.S. Air Force after graduating from Blue Valley West in 2008. He said his brief college experience wasn't to his liking. Signing up for the Air Force gave him a new lease on life, one that's taken him as far away as Kuwait.
"It means everything. It`s exactly why we do what we do — to provide freedom for the United States. That`s your family," Murphy said. "Credit to my parents. They told me to dream big, and to do something bigger than myself. I found my way with the Air Force."
"It`s hard sometimes, but it`s good to know they`re doing what they love. That kind of drowns out when you realize how happy they are," Cain said.
Sadly, Murphy knows many soldiers don`t get a moment to be reunited with their loved ones. He`s stationed stateside nowadays, so hopefully there will be many more before he inevitably ships out again.
Also from that patriotic celebration, Blue Valley West students joined managers from Panda Express in Johnson County, donating $5,000 to a Florida State University scholarship named to honor Justin Sisson, a soldier from Johnson County who was killed in the line of duty in 2013.