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Veteran's return was a surprise for his children

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Maj. James Feaster surprised his son, Ben, at Bunsold Middle School when he returned last week from serving with the 416th Theater Engineer Command-U.S. Army Reserves in Afghanistan. He also visited Trinity Lutheran School to surprise daughters Emma and Elizabeth.
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An early morning team activity at Bunsold Middle School March 11 turned into much more.

Eighth-grade history teacher Bob Sements said it took careful planning to pull off a memorable surprise for one student.

"We wanted to do it first thing in the morning because we didn't want the family to wait any longer," he said.

The surprise was the return of Maj. James Feaster from Afghanistan. He deployed overseas in February 2012 with the 416th Theater Engineer Command-U.S. Army Reserves and actually returned home Sunday, March 10, then waited for the big reunion.

Students in the 8-4 team at Bunsold gathered in the school auditorium for what they thought was a team activity. Ben Feaster, 14, was told he had to redo an assignment and was kept back in one of the classrooms.

When he finally got to the auditorium, he knew something was up.

The eighth-grade choir stood on the stage, the room was decorated with American flags and Sements began a speech reminiscing about the activity the team did in that auditorium when they visited with Maj. Feaster on Veterans Day.

He then led up to the big reveal.

"I said, 'Maj. James Feaster is coming back and he's coming back right now. Ben, you ready for this? Ladies and gentlemen, let's welcome back to Marysville Maj. James Feaster.' They gave him a standing ovation," Sements recounted.

Feaster stepped on stage and motioned for his son, who Sements described as "a shy kid, good kid," to come up and give him a hug.

Visiting Ben at Bunsold wasn't the only surprise Feaster planned; on the same day, he also went to Trinity Lutheran School to surprise his daughters, sixth-grader Elizabeth and fourth-grader Emma.

"He was behind the curtain with two roses and the principal told the students, 'We have a surprise guest and if you know this person run to them,'" Shauna Feaster said. "Elizabeth ran over and jumped off the floor onto him."

"It took Emma a moment to figure it out," her husband said.

Mrs. Feaster said she thinks her son is now relieved that he has another man in the house since for the entire year, it was him, his mom and two younger sisters at home.

Ben said not having his dad at some of his sporting events was difficult.

"Sometimes I had to carpool when mom was busy," he said.

Maj. Feaster was deployed with the 416th Theater Engineer Command out of Chicago. He was in Kabul to help with "base planning" -- deciding what bases can close and what personnel can transfer where. Back home, he's a quality engineer at Honda.

He spent a year in Iraq in 2005. He said he hopes his trip to Afghanistan is his last deployment.

"I have 17 years in, I can retire at 20," he said.

He said many people have a hard time grasping the scope of being gone for a year.

"There are a lot of things I missed out on, a lot with the kids. To be gone for a year, it's really hard to describe," he said.

"Some things are the same. Potholes are still the same," he laughed.

Mrs. Feaster said their children have all changed in the past year.

"Since he left, they've all transitioned to a new stage -- just growing and changing and all the stages that go with it," she said.

Mrs. Feaster said she's very happy to have her family reunited.

"The hardest part is doing it on your own and being busy every night of the week," she said. "He's going to help out a lot now that he's back. All my friends and family say my smile has been permanently glued on my face. It's wonderful."

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