An Army dad surprised his daughter with a huge graduation hug after years overseas

Florida high school senior Kayla Tillman was reunited with her father Staff Sgt. Anthony Tillman, who was deployed in South Korea with the US Army, during her graduation ceremony.

Posted: May 21, 2019 6:30 PM
Updated: May 21, 2019 6:30 PM

Graduation day was already shaping up to be a huge moment in Kayla Tillman's life, but it was made even more memorable by a surprise visit from her father, who's been serving overseas in the Army for years.

Staff Sgt. Anthony Tillman strode onto the stage during Sunday's graduation for St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, took of his uniform hat and gave his daughter a huge hug.

"I felt like I was hugging him for hours. I felt like I was hugging him a little bit too long," she said.

Kayla said her dad had been serving in South Korea, and had told her three days before graduation that he would not be able to make it.

"I had no idea that he was coming," she said.

School officials didn't know either.

Assistant Principal Margie Scott says Tillman arrived about an hour before the ceremony and asked to surprise his daughter. They scrambled to find a way to work it in.

"There was never a question of whether or not we wanted to do it. We just wanted to make it as right as we possibly could," Scott said.

They ended up calling Kayla to the stage for special recognition before introducing her dad.

"When they called my dad up there I was happy, I was filled with joy and I was stunned," she said.

"I couldn't even move, I couldn't feel my legs, I couldn't feel my arms. I was overwhelmed with joy."

Kayla said her dad's been in the Army since she was in the second grade and has been gone a lot.

She said he talks regularly with her and her sister over FaceTime, but she hadn't seen him in person since just before the start of eighth grade.

She said they only got to spend a short time together after graduation.

"He left the same night. I saw him for a couple of hours. We had dinner," she said. "Every time I see him, our time is very limited."

Anthony Tillman told CNN affiliate WSVN that he is a tank commander and that being away from his children has been tough.

"When they call me crying, when I can't fix something -- be there to fix it for them," Tillman said. "I think that's one of the hardest things -- just not being there when they really need me."

Kayla says she plans to take an online course so she can get ahead before going off to college. She's majoring in biological sciences and hopes to become a doctor.

Lafayette
Clear
48° wxIcon
Hi: 48° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 42°
Kokomo
Clear
43° wxIcon
Hi: 44° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 34°
Rensselaer
Clear
43° wxIcon
Hi: 44° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 34°
Lafayette
Clear
48° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 42°
Danville
Clear
46° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 39°
Frankfort
Clear
45° wxIcon
Hi: 47° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 36°
Frankfort
Clear
45° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 36°
Monticello
Clear
44° wxIcon
Hi: 48° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 37°
Monticello
Clear
44° wxIcon
Hi: 47° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 37°
Logansport
Clear
43° wxIcon
Hi: 44° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 34°
Windy, But Warmer For Thursday
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 598313

Reported Deaths: 9529
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion826311317
Lake44778676
Allen32331543
Hamilton28818314
St. Joseph27014378
Elkhart24244343
Vanderburgh19012243
Tippecanoe17701128
Johnson14748289
Porter14574166
Hendricks14074244
Madison10768217
Vigo10584177
Clark10428136
Monroe9222109
Delaware8982134
LaPorte8925159
Howard8061141
Kosciusko796782
Warrick657997
Hancock653599
Bartholomew634097
Floyd6270108
Wayne6037159
Grant5893112
Dubois549477
Boone542267
Morgan526294
Henry500764
Marshall497784
Cass477062
Dearborn467645
Noble466157
Jackson419146
Shelby408180
Lawrence385777
Clinton368240
Gibson362659
DeKalb341364
Montgomery338953
Harrison335343
Knox331339
Miami315744
Steuben309844
Whitley299825
Adams297835
Wabash297747
Ripley294945
Putnam290347
Huntington287559
Jasper286234
White269839
Daviess264773
Jefferson255838
Decatur244382
Fayette243948
Greene237062
Posey235227
Wells232247
LaGrange226061
Clay219932
Scott219538
Randolph210445
Jennings195335
Sullivan190033
Spencer185819
Fountain180827
Washington180222
Starke173943
Jay164822
Owen161737
Fulton161430
Carroll154515
Orange153433
Rush152318
Perry149727
Vermillion146733
Franklin145533
Parke12988
Tipton129532
Pike114626
Blackford109522
Pulaski95637
Newton89921
Brown86533
Benton85410
Crawford7769
Martin71013
Warren6637
Switzerland6325
Union6166
Ohio4747
Unassigned0375

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events