“Stars Above Us” by Geoffrey Norman turned out to the be the perfect book for the mystery reader in Rebecca Anderson’s third-grade classroom on Tuesday, Dec. 2 at Siegrist Elementary in Platte City. Marsha Perry started the story but let the man dressed in a parrot suit finish the part describing the father’s return.
Lt. Col. Myles Perry returned home earlier in the day from a tour in Afghanistan with the Army Reserves. He wore Platte County R-3’s Pirates R.O.C.K mascot costume, PC the Parrott, inside the school to surprise his youngest daughter, nine-year-old Emerson.
With his three older kids and wife in front of the room, Myles Perry revealed himself much to Emma’s shock. She took a moment to realize what was going on before jumping into her dad’s arms.
“You look forward to that homecoming,” Myles Perry said, “coming off the plane and seeing everybody and then when my wife came up with the idea to come surprise my youngest, you just have as much fun with it as you possibly can. They’ve had a very tough year, and they’ve gone through a lot so it’s kind of fun to surprise them — especially in front of their friends.”
Marsha Perry — a special education teacher at Barry School and Pathfinder Elementary in the southern part of Platte County’s district — concocted the idea and managed to involve all four kids without telling any of them exactly when their father would arrive home. She showed up as the mystery reader and asked Carson, 13, and twins Braeden and Kendall, 16, to join her for the session just after noon.
PC the Parrott interrupted, giving a clue to the three oldest kids, who recognized the military boots. The costume’s feet wouldn’t fit.
“I didn’t even look at the boots,” Emmy said.
Emmy said she was completely surprised and overjoyed to see her dad, who had been away from home for about 11 months.
Marsha Perry took her job in the Platte County district prior to the 2013-14 school year, and the family relocated from Liberty, Mo., to a new home just south of Platte City in December. A few weeks later, Myles Perry left to prepare for his nine-month tour with the 647th Regional Support Group out of El Paso, Texas.
The family used Skype and Apple’s FaceTime to stay in contact with Myles Perry, who works as an assistant prosecutor for the Platte County Prosecutor’s Office.
Myles Perry served as active duty in the Army from 1996-2001 and has been in the reserves for the past 13 years. This marked his fourth trip overseas, and Marsha Perry took the opportunity to plan a homecoming that involved their youngest daughter’s class, which prepared letters for Myles Perry in recent weeks.
Myles Perry played the part of mascot on his way to Mrs. Anderson’s classroom, high-fiving other students who were completely unaware of the plan unfolding. He took a seat next to his kids and listened for a few pages.
As the older siblings caught on to what was about to transpire, Emmy looked on from her spot among her classmates in the front row next to the wall, blissfully unaware while her mother continued reading.
“Stars Above Us” never explicitly says why the father leaves, but a military assignment is inferred by the implied danger at his destination. He helps his daughter with a fear of the dark by describing the beauty of stars in the night sky.
“Mostly, I was just trying to stay hidden,” Myles Perry said. “I’m trying to kind of keep it going, entertain everybody, and honestly, it happened so fast, I wasn’t sure when the big reveal was coming.”
The big reveal came just in time to finish the last few pages — two stories of a father returning home intersecting and playing out simultaneously. A happy ending for all involved.