LEXINGTON, S.C. - Throughout history, military homecomings have warmed the hearts around America, being depicted in movies, songs, as well as today being posted on social media and news channels.
The images of service members surprising loved ones at schools, sporting events and other celebrations continue to garner popularity, especially when one returns from a long deployment in time for the holidays. For one South Carolina Army National Guard Soldier, that image became reality.
Spc. Jarret Purvis, an all-wheeled mechanic for the 742nd Support Maintenance Company, South Carolina Army National Guard, had been deployed for nearly 11 months to support U.S. Army Europe for Operation Atlantic Resolve. On Dec. 16, he and his unit returned home.
"It was my daughter's fourth birthday, and I wanted to surprise her," said Purvis, who began preparations in November to surprise his wife Ashley and their two daughters, ages 2 and 4.
Purvis said that the planning was pretty easy because he didn't give his wife any firm dates when he would be home and led her to believe demobilization and out processing would take longer. When his unit arrived at the airport in Columbia, South Carolina, he, with some help from other members of his family, was able to execute his plan. He made his entrance during his daughter's party in a gymnasium in Lexington, South Carolina.
"I was completely shocked," said Ashley Purvis."I had no idea he was coming home and it was an overwhelmingly emotional surprise with lots of tears."
During his 10 years in the Army National Guard, he's deployed two times. During those times of separation, he said he missed a lot of major milestones in his daughters' lives and many holidays. Through these tough times he knew the sacrifices he made had purpose and the benefits that come with being a part of the military were worth it for him and his family.
"My first daughter was born during my first deployment to Afghanistan in 2013," said Purvis."It was challenging to watch my daughters grow up through video chat and photos."
Prior to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the role of the National Guard was a reserve force with traditional drills one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer. Since then and with today's threats, the National Guard has increased readiness as an operational force prepared to answer the call at a moment's notice.
"The reason why I continue to serve my country is because I love my job," said Purvis."I love working on different types of vehicles that I normally don't see but the big determining factor is the long term benefits for my wife and kids."
Having a strong support system is key for many service members to continue their mission. Knowing that the people they leave behind will be there for them and help them drive on gives them purpose. A support system includes civilian employers as well as family and friends.
For the last three years, Purvis has worked for International Paper as a corrugator control room operator. He said his employer has always supported him and his military career.
"My management at International Paper is very supportive and understanding with my military career," said Purvis."Without their support and understanding, I wouldn't be able to pursue or continue my duties in the military and it would make life so much harder."
Now that Purvis is home and the surprise homecoming was a success, they plan to spend the holidays together as a family and eventually plan a vacation after the New Year.
"I support Jarret's military career because he is my husband and I love him," Ashley Purvis said."We are very excited to have him home just in time for the holidays."