A Father's Love

It seems to have become something of a phenomenon for military members to surprise unsuspecting family members by returning home unannounced. The videos are all over the Internet: a father in fatigues tiptoes up behind his cheerleader daughter as she stands on the sidelines of her school’s football field or a pregnant wife is lured to a radio station on the pretext that she has won a contest, only to be greeted by her GI husband.

U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Pedro Cruz, Jr., stationed at Camp Buehring, in the Middle East, would have loved to have surprised his son, Pedro Cruz III, during his graduation from the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering on May 23. However, the elder Cruz was unable to make the 6,317-mile trip from Kuwait to Brooklyn for the ceremony.

With the help of the USO and the cooperation of NYU staffers, he did the next best thing. Immediately after Pedro Cruz III, a construction management graduate, received his diploma and shook the hand of Dean Katepalli Sreenivasan, he was handed an iPad and instructed to watch a video. “Hey son, surprise,” his beaming father said in the taped greeting loaded onto the device. “Right about now you should be on stage picking up your degree. I wanted to be the first to congratulate you on this special day.”

Perched in front of a military helicopter, Staff Sergeant Cruz saluted his son and described the pride he felt at his growth and accomplishments over the last four years. The younger Cruz, who received a flag that had flown over his father’s base and a plaque in addition to the iPad, snappily returned the salute and marveled at the planning that had gone into the surprise. “I thought I’d just go right back to my seat with everybody else,” he told the crowd who had gathered to watch his reaction.

While his father encouraged him on the tape to simply enjoy each day and not think too much about what was to come, the new graduate has big plans. Working in the construction industry will be how he lives his vision of the American Dream, he explained. And it went without saying that he and his fellow graduates were free to pursue that dream thanks, in part, because of his father and all those serving their country.