STERLING – The first thing that ran through 12-year-old Isaiah Moorman’s mind when his big brother surprised him at Challand Middle School on Monday was that his brother was safe, he said.
Pfc. Zachary Moorman, 20, came to the middle school to surprise Isaiah and his twin sister, Shayla.
Zachary was in Afghanistan from February to early September on his first deployment. Unbeknownst to his siblings, he has been staying in Lakeville, Ind. with his wife and his in-laws since his return to the U.S.
The sixth-graders cried and hugged Zachary as he first surprised Isaiah in his classroom and then Shayla in hers.
“Why don’t you get your stuff so we can go,” Zachary told Isaiah as the younger brother dried his tears and Zachary patted his back.
“I guess you have the day off,” said Isaiah’s teacher, Suzanne Palumbo. “What do you think of that?”
“Awesome,” Isaiah replied.
Shayla knew what she wanted to do with her day.
“I want to go home with him and play video games,” she said.
Zachary, his wife, Hannah Moorman, and mother, Tracy Moorman, escorted the twins to their lockers so they could put away some items and collect their book bags.
“We can get something to eat at McDonald’s,” Zachary told them. “Whatever you guys want.”
Zachary himself had tears in his eyes after the reunions, which is uncharacteristic, he said.
“I’m not a very emotional person,” he said. I don’t do that kind of stuff in public.”
The twins had another stop before they left school. They went to the band room to collect their violins from band instructor, Barb Lauff, and introduced Lauff, who is also their cross country coach, to their brother.
Lauff told Zachary that the twins were not allowed to have soda on their trip to the fast-food restaurant and suggested they go for a run together.
Hannah Moorman, 19, thought of Zachary paying a surprise visit to his siblings after watching “Coming Home,” a Lifetime program in which members of the military surprise family members.
“I thought they’d remember this for the rest of their lives,” she said.
Zachary will stay in Sterling about a week before he has to go to Fort Bragg in North Carolina.
Zachary graduated from Sterling High School in 2011. He had been stationed in Sangsar, a village in the Zhari district of Kandahar Province with the 82nd Airborne Division, Bravo company. His company worked on construction and other projects, including bringing ill Afghan civilians to their outpost for medicine, he said.
He saw children in Afghanistan who reminded him of his siblings, he said.
“I’ve seen kids and stuff that look like them,” he said. “It makes me more proud to be an American to be here and not there.”