IOLA- The Iola Bulldogs were preparing for the Chilton Pirates during homecoming week, but behind the scenes teachers were planning a homecoming that meant a lot more to 10-year old student London John.
Little London hadn’t seen her mom, U.S. Army Captain Kristen Tharp, since December 2018. During the Bulldog homecoming pep-rally Friday, Oct. 18, cheerleaders reeled out a huge black box. Cheerleaders trying to get students to guess who was in the box, when London was approached and asked to open the box.
“I thought since we were having a pirate themed pep-rally that a pirate was going to be in the box and pop out and scare me,” explained London as to why she was hesitant to open the box at first. She was overcome with emotion when she uncovered the box and saw her favorite soldier. “I can’t explain it in words,” said London of that moment. “I was overwhelmed, and it was just a really good time.”
The mom and daughter embraced in front of hundreds in attendance that tried to witness the scene through tear-blurred eyes.
“So much went through my head when I found out I was being deployed,” said Tharp. During her 17-year career she had been deployed once before in 2005. “When I was deployed to Afghanistan it was different, I was young and single and didn’t have any children.” This deployment to Kuwait and Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve is different for Tharp because she has London and a set of twins.
“There is a lot of being nervous and anxious and just making sure they are well taken care of while you’re away and hoping they don’t forget you,” said Tharp. London stayed with her grandmother (Mee-Maw) and her dad while her mom was away. “We are really thankful for the support system that we’ve had throughout the whole deployment.”
London said she missed her mom a lot but was able to talk to her on the phone and through video calls. “I called her a lot and sometimes called her during the middle of the night because of the difference in time,” said London.
Tharp said her and London’s Mee-Maw talked about how they were going to surprise London. “I ended up emailing London’s teachers a couple of weeks ago and they said they were on it. They came up with the what’s in the box idea, which I was nervous to get into at first, but it was a fun and cool experience.”
Tharp said the plan is to have London finish the school year in Iola before they move back to Montgomery. “We love Iola and this school district has really done a great job. I appreciate everything Iola has done for us,” explained Tharp.
London said she heard a lot about her mom’s adventures overseas, but she is eager to hear more.