courtesy photo/ Shawana Coxcourtesy photo/ Shawana Cox

A Sweet Surprise

Hometown Airman Pulls Off 7 Secret Veteran’s Day Visits
Cody Ward left Willow Springs for boot camp with the United States Air Force on July 13, just five weeks after graduating with the Class of 2021. Before leaving for his first permanent duty station near Anchorage, Alaska, Ward has 17 days of free time. He started his home visit with seven surprise appearances for friends and family. 
“I was missing home and wanted to come see some people who weren’t expecting me till Monday,” Ward said, “I drove ten hours from the Mississippi coast, and got home at 3 a.m.”
His father, Jeff Ward, was the first to receive a surprise visit. 
“I was in my office at the ambulance base and heard the knock at the door,” Ward said, “I looked up and saw him on the security camera with his cowboy hat on and immediately said to the crew ‘Holy cow..that's my son!’ and ran to the back door. What made me happier than anything was to see him back in his cowboy hat with his big, genuine smile. That meant more to me than seeing him in his uniform. While seeing him in uniform makes me extremely proud, what I loved most was seeing that he was still the same old Cody that he left as.”
Next to be surprised was his mom, Beth Stuart. 
“He conspired with his stepparents and with my coworkers to surprise me. He told me he wouldn't be home until the 15th, but I asked way too many questions and his story wasn't adding up,” Stuart recounted. 
The most public of Ward’s surprises was walking out on the basketball court to surprise his little sister, Sydney, at her game. Stuart helped him plan the surprise, but Cody still managed to pull off a surprise visit to her at work first.
“He told me he'd be home the night of Veteran's Day to surprise Syd at her game,” Stuart said, “We didn't know when he would arrive, so I worked with her coach to make sure [on the surprise]. Little did I know, he left the night before and drove all night. He stayed with a friend and with the help of my husband and co-workers, he revealed himself during lunch. He called me minutes before he got there to tell me he was trying to hurry to get here by the evening and not miss Sydney's game,” she said.
At the game, Cody walked out on the hardwood in uniform to surprise his sister Syndey.
“Watching Sydney see him for the first time, we expected tears,” Stuart said, “She said she was so in shock she just stood there and then ran to him.  She turned back to go warm up for the game and started crying. Just happy to see him. They're very close.”
All in all, Airman Ward surprised his father, mother, sister, grandfather, best friend, a foster sister, and a cousin. 
When asked to choose his favorite surprise, Cody couldn’t pick. 
“It was nice to see everyone,” he said. 
Airman Ward will leave for Joint Base Elmendorf- Richardson in Anchorage on November 27.
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