Shocked grad gets dad, diploma

Published 8:50 pm Friday, May 27, 2011

Army assistant chaplain Kin Perry (left) walks daughter Olivia down the aisle during the graduation procession May 27 at Cornerstone Christian School. Olivia Perry hadn't seen her dad since he was deployed overseas in August 2010. (Reporter photo/Brad Gaskins)

By BRAD GASKINS / Staff Writer

COLUMBIANA – Olivia Perry was thrilled Friday night to get a diploma from Cornerstone Christian School.

But the advanced honors graduate was a little bummed her dad wouldn’t be there to see it.

Columbiana resident Kin Perry, an Army assistant chaplain deployed to Afghanistan in August 2010, wouldn’t return until August 2011.

Or so Olivia Perry had thought.

As the procession proceeded, two-by-two, down the sanctuary aisle, Perry noticed her walking partner wasn’t beside her.

“They had told me that the girl standing beside me had to tie her shoe,” Perry said. “Paige doesn’t were tying shoes. She wears heels.”

Paige Pazsak was in on the ruse.

At the last possible moment, Kin Perry emerged from hiding, surprised his daughter and walked her down the aisle.

Dad and daughter walked up on the stage and hugged. Olivia Perry took her place in the choir loft with the other 19 graduates as they sang the school’s Alma mater song.

CSS graduate Olivia Perry (left) gets a hug from her dad, Kin Perry. (Reporter photo/Brad Gaskins)

As the others sang and smiled, Perry wiped away an occasional tear but mostly stared straight ahead, seemingly in a daze.

“I was just shocked,” she said.

Forty-five minutes later, as the presentation of diplomas began, Perry managed to crack a smile.

Jay Adams (left) awards a diploma to Olivia Perry. (Reporter photo/Brad Gaskins)

The plan to surprise her was first discussed last November. Kin Thomas learned by early December he was coming home for graduation.

He arrived home May 25 and kept a low profile. Not even his mother knew he was home.

“My wife [Laura] told me I could either go to my mother’s or go to a hotel,” Kin Perry said. “I went to a motel, because I knew if I went to my mother’s she might spread it out.”

It was a moment he’ll never forget.

“It was very special,” said Kin Perry, on leave through June 10. “I even told my command that if I couldn’t be here for this I would just stay there (in Afghanistan) until my year was up.”