Father surprises Schuylerville student after deployment

Maj. Jeffrey Oakes hugs his daughter Emily after surprising her at a school assembly
Maj. Jeffrey Oakes hugs his daughter Emily after surprising her at a school assembly

A Schuylerville sixth-grader got a surprise she’ll remember for the rest of her life at a school assembly on Wednesday, May 13. Emily Oakes thought her father was still deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba when he showed up in the auditorium.

Maj. Jeffrey Oakes was on a covert mission Wednesday as he snuck into the auditorium of Schuylerville High School. As he hid behind the blue curtains of the stage, he said he was excited to see the look on his daughter’s face.

“I can’t wait to see her and give her a hug,” Oakes said. “We’ve had this surprise planned for months.”

Emily was in the audience listening to the fifth- and sixth-grade band rehearse and waiting her turn to take the stage with the chorus.

Before the band played their last song, which was a tribute to those serving overseas, Middle School Principal Katie Elsworth asked those students in the audience who have a family member serving in the military to stand up. She then called Emily up to the stage as Emily’s dad walked out from behind the curtain. The students and teachers in the audience started cheering and gave the family a standing ovation.

The Oakes family
The Oakes family

“Emily thought her dad was coming home in a few weeks, but he arrived last night,” Cheryl Oakes, Emily’s mother, said. “We hid him in the bedroom while Emily got ready this morning so we could surprise her at school.”

Emily’s brother Will was in on the surprise and watched from the back of the auditorium as his sister was called onto the stage.

Oakes says the first thing his family plans to do together is go to Emily’s chorus concert.

“It’s difficult being away from the kids and missing events and concerts,” Oakes said. “I can’t wait to be in the audience tonight and hear her sing.”