PERRYVILLE, Md. – Antonio “Tony” Halsey and his classmates in the second grade at Good Shepherd School stood on the stage in the auditorium Friday afternoon, Dec. 1, telling the rest of the students and faculty what they had learned in preparation for their first reconciliation, which they would celebrate the next day.
The second-graders explained what reconciliation is and what activities they had planned for Saturday. They then led the school in reciting the Act of Contrition.
Principal Sharon Hodges asked 8-year-old Tony about a special project the second grade had been working on, a “Welcome Home” sign for Tony’s father, Sonny, a member of the Maryland National Guard who had been stationed in Iraq since February. Hodges said she understood that at the parish Christmas bazaar, one present would mean more than any other. What was that, she asked.
“My dad home,” Tony said.
Just then, Sonny Halsey walked into the auditorium, and Tony let out a loud “Daddy!” as he ran into his father’s arms. Neither cried, but Anita Halsey wiped away tears for several minutes when her husband and son embraced.
“I’m just so happy for (Tony). He loves his daddy so much,” Anita said.
She and Tony spent two weeks with Sonny in Germany in August while he was on leave, and both cried when it was time to come home, she said. “We cried hard when we left him from Germany. I mean hard. We cried all the way home on the airplane.”
Sonny Halsey is a full-time recruiter for the National Guard, but he was assigned to the 1729th Maintenance Company because he used to work as a machinist and welder, and his skills were needed. The 160-person unit left Feb. 9 and spent their deployment in southern Iraq preparing for the departure of American troops.
“We left nine guys back there to shut the lights out,” Sonny said.
His unit returned to Fort Dix, N.J., the day after Thanksgiving, but his appearance at Good Shepherd wasn’t a certainty until the day before it happened. The 1729th was scheduled to return to Maryland Saturday, but Anita Halsey received permission from the military to bring Sonny home a day early. The Dec. 2 arrival meant Sonny could appear at the school and also attend his son’s first reconciliation, as well as a parade in North East later Saturday in which his son is marching with his Cub Scout pack.
Sonny Halsey was thrilled to be able to make his return at Good Shepherd.
“You’re coming back to family, you know what I mean? Good Shepherd is family,” he said. “I’m shaking, I’m just shaking right now. The way I feel, it’s overwhelming, all these people.”
Sonny had a present for Tony when they reunited: the Bronze Star he earned while deployed. Tony wore it proudly and held his father tight.
“I’m not going anywhere, buddy. I can feel from the way you’re hugging me, you think I’m only here for a minute. But I’m done now. I’m home for good now,” he said.
Tony is usually a big talker, according to his mother, but he mustered just a one-word answer when asked what he planned to do with his dad now that he was home.
“Everything,” he said.