When Oceanside High School security retrieved Alison Abbey from her classroom and escorted her to the main office, the sophomore didn’t know what to expect. That’s why when she saw her brother Alex, who had spent more than a month in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, for basic training for the National Guard, Abbey didn’t exactly know how to feel.
“It was really emotional,” said Alison, who said she hasn’t really talked to her older brother since he left in November. “It was a bitter-sweet moment because I was crying, but I was so happy to see him.”
Alex, 21, graduated Oceanside High School in 2013, and was attending John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan last year when a National Guard recruiter came to his school. He realized serving his country was his calling, and is now in the middle of a 10-week basic training period.
“We are thrilled for the experience he is going through, and we are thrilled for the choices he has been making,” his father, Eric, said. “We are happy…and proud that he has chosen this path.”
But the time apart was not easy for Alex’s family, who was not used to him being away for long periods of time. When Alex arrived home for the holidays — from Dec. 21 to Jan. 3 — he said he wanted to surprise as many family members as he could. He stopped by his grandmother’s house, then had the idea to swing by the high school to surprise his little sister. The school was happy to cooperate, Eric said, and as Alison walked into the office, he took a video of his children’s reunion.
“I was filled with pride and very happy that they love each other,” Eric said. “Let’s face it, siblings don’t always, and I was just happy that we were able to pull it off.”
He later posted the video on Facebook, and thousands have viewed it to date. Eric said Alex also surprised his younger brother at Oceanside Middle School before going home to see his mother.
Though the Abbey family is able to send Alex letters, correspondence on the phone is sparse. Short calls over the weekend are granted only as a privilege by the drill sergeants.
“It’s tough not being able to pick up the phone and talk to him whenever I want to or him to call just to say hello,” Eric said. “We sit with our phones in our hands on high volume from noon on, on Sunday, waiting for his phone call.”
After his basic training concludes, Alex will go on to advanced training en route to becoming part of the National Guard’s military police, his father said. He is set to graduate on April 13.