The students at Wallace Middle School, Monday morning, were expecting a lunch hour Halloween costume contest. No one won but the students did get to see a Trick and a Treat.
14-year-old Matthew Tatum came dressed as his father, who the Army sent to South Korea seven months ago. What Matthew and his younger two bothers didn't know was that their dad was back, at the school, and the contest was only a ruse.
With the reunion plan set in motion, principal Sara Hodges and Sgt. Nathan Tatum struggled to keep their nerves in check.
"It’s going to be exciting, they have no idea, no idea,” said Hodges.
Hodges assembled the students wearing costumes in the cafeteria as Sgt. Tatum hid backstage and tried to get a quick glimpse of his boys. The anticipation was almost too much.
"Oh yeah, definitely, definitely, watching them walk around the cafeteria was unbearable,” said Sgt. Tatum
The big reveal came as Matthew was explaining his outfit to his classmates. Matthew turned and embraced dad as 11-year-old Christopher stormed the stage. 13-year-old Josh was not far behind.
The seven months apart seemed to melt away as the four Tatum men stood together and the student body continued to cheer in delight.
"Awesome, you can’t describe it … Its one of those feelings that, you can’t describe, just pure joy and happiness,” said Sgt. Tatum.
While their dad was in South Korea, the boys have been living in Kyle with their aunt, Kristine DeBaun. She started planning this Halloween surprise back in early September.
"We carved pumpkins last night, it was so hard to do that knowing their dad was coming home today and not being able to participate and getting the message of, I wish I could be there ... and it was, well you know ... we could save it. But no, it was pretty emotional,” said DeBaun.
This reunion is actually only a short visit. Sgt. Tatum has to return to his Far East assignment later this month. He says he'll miss the coming holidays but says he is thankful for this time with his boys and the long embrace that will last a lifetime.