It was Friday the 13th disguised as April Fool’s Day, and seventh-grader Brad Marrero Jr.’s good fortune to be deceived, along with his classmates at Sacred Heart High School Sept. 13.
Marrero’s father, Sgt. First Class Brad Marrero Sr., surprised his son during the lunch period that day at the school, returning home early from a year’s deployment to Kuwait. He was originally scheduled to return in October.
Working in concert with other school administrators, teachers and staff, Sacred Heart Athletics Director Joe Falla Jr. called students into the cafeteria for what was to be an “announcement” concerning the school’s upcoming “Lucky Duck” fundraising raffle. Marrero Jr., along with two of his fellow students, were called to the middle of the cafeteria for the “announcement.”
Marrero Sr. then walked into the cafeteria, holding a giant inflatable duck – a symbol for the raffle - blocking him out of view. He then dropped the duck to reveal himself to everyone, as Marrero Jr. ran to him for an emotional embrace.
“It really feels good to have him back home,” Marrero Jr. said, through his tears. “It’s been hard on my mom and my brother and sister” with his father away.
Marrero’s wife, Lydia, said Brad Jr. is the oldest of his siblings, and therefore more aware of his dad’s absence. She described him as a ‘kind and caring kid, who has really helped me take care of his brother and sister” during dad’s absence.
“It really hit home for me how much it has affected him when we were at a baseball tournament, and he broke down, saying, ‘I would give anything if Dad were here,’” she said.
Marrero Sr. said he “owes his son” for his good work helping his mother, who works full-time, while he was deployed.
“I told him, like we say in the military, ‘you’ve got to toe the line’ and be the man of the house, and he’s really done that,” he said. “I’m so proud of him.”
Marrero Sr. serves with the Mississippi National Guard’s 184th Expeditionary Sustainment Command and is based at Camp Shelby, located just south of Hattiesburg. He has completed 20 years in the military and says he’s contemplating retirement, but for now is just hopeful he’s been deployed for the last time, with his assignment in Kuwait being his third.
His immediate plans are to spend time with his family. “I’ve got a new grill, so we’re going to fire that up this weekend and cookout,” Marrero Sr. said.