Eastern Iowa Marine Pulls Off Christmas Surprise
By Dave Franzman, Reporter
DUBUQUE, Iowa- A Marine who returned from Afghanistan to his California base earlier this month managed to spring a big holiday surprise on his family in eastern Iowa Wednesday.
Corporal Sean Oliver, 22, expected to spend Christmas with his wife Kylie at his Marine base. And he didn’t plan to see his family for several months. But an unexpected use-it-or-lose-it leave from his unit prompted a snap decision. Oliver and his wife drove 46-hours back to Iowa and didn’t tell most of his family he was coming.
Oliver’s sister Tia was first on his “gotcha”list. She attends Bellevue High School and got called to the office on a pretext and saw her brother. With a cry of “Sean” they embraced for several minutes.
The corporal said so far his surprise plan was working.
“They weren’t expecting us to come home at all. They were expecting us to stay in California for Christmas,” he said.
Actually, Oliver did need a little help to spring his holiday surprise. He told his grandparents last week what he was planning. But they were sworn to keep quiet.
His grandmother, Virginia Oliver of rural Dubuque said ”I told him, Sean I don’t know if I can keep a secret. And he said ‘you better.’”
After surprising his sister, Corporal Oliver’s next stop was his mother workplace in Dubuque. He made arrangements with managers at the John Deere facility to get his mother to leave her job and come to the visitor center.
By the time that happened, Oliver had been awake for about 30 hours straight. But an energetic welcome by his mother, Gena Oliver, took care of any fatigue issues.
Gena Oliver described her reaction as “shocked” but then called her son’s surprise appearance “the best Christmas ever.”
Corporal Oliver said he served two tours in Afghanistan since graduating from Bellevue High School. He last saw his family in April before his most recent deployment. He hadn’t been able to get back to Iowa for the holidays in four years.
His trip back went through the path of a snowstorm out west and instead of driving straight through he had to spend a night in a motel.
But he said the shocked looks and lots of hugs made the whole trip worthwhile.
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