WESTON, Mo. — Maddy and Natalie Cheadle were playing a game of cornhole when the disc jockey at the Weston Fourth of July event called them to come up to the tent.
DJ Alan Lintner mentioned how the day was a cause of celebration of our country, but how important it is to honor those in the military defending our country and their families.
Maddy, 16, and Natalie, 10, didn’t know at the time that there was a big surprise awaiting them.
Lintner read a letter from the girls’ father, Staff Sgt. Gordon Cheadle.
“I was hoping to be home on the fourth,” Lintner recited off the letter from the dad. “I want you to how much I love you and how proud I am for you being so solid the last few months. I hope today will be a special day for you.”
As soon as he finished, he added, ‘by the way, he’s home.’
Gordon Cheadle started walking to the DJ booth from the Saint George Hotel, where he has been hiding out for hours prior to the ceremony at 7 p.m.
Natalie ran and jumped into her dad’s arm, while Maddy stood in shock for a few moments before running toward him.
Gordon Cheadle, a member of the Missouri Air National Guard 139th Airlift Wing, had been in Kuwait for 133 days prior to his arrival. He landed in St. Joseph’s Rosecrans Airport earlier that day at noon.
The surprise was in the plans for some time, with Gordon knowing about it and Breanna and Colby Rollins, Maddy’s boyfriend, working behind the scenes to make it go off without a hitch.
There was nearly a ‘hitch’ when Breanna sent her mother a message on Facebook telling her Gordon landed in Maine. Natalie was at her grandmother’s house and saw the message from her mother pop up on a tablet.
“I fibbed a little bit and she bought it,” Breanna said.
Maddy, who just moved Dearborn in May to live with her dad and stepmother, got a text from her father saying he was on the way home on July 4th, but she didn’t expect him back until Saturday, July 7.
“I froze,” Maddy said, who will be a junior at North Platte High School. “I couldn’t breathe. It was very hard to believe. I didn’t see it coming … I never do. He always gets me.
“It is exciting. I’m glad he will be in the same house as me.”
Maddy Cheadle, after the initial shock, ran toward her father after her sister did and she hurdled a barrier that stood between her and her dad.
She eldest also expressed a bit of frustration at her boyfriend for keeping it a secret.
Colby Rollins, who will be a sophomore at Platte County High School, stated he was honored to be a part of the ceremony.
“It was tricky,” he said of keeping it under wraps. “She would start talking about doing this and I about said ‘we can’t because’ … and I’d say ‘you know maybe we should try to this.’”
The planning process took two weeks and Breanna Cheadle, who kept tabs on her husband from leaving the Middle East to Europe to Canada to the United States.
She was one of more than 100 people at Rosecrans on Wednesday, July 4, when some of the members of 139th arrived home.
“A lot of people are still continuing on what we need to do, and we need to remember them and recognize them and not forget about them and their families,” said Breanna Cheadle, who is an alderman in Dearborn.
A native of Wyoming, Gordon Cheadle joined the military in July of 2009 – about a year after moving to Dearborn. He is an aircraft mechanic.
“It is a long time coming … it is a great feeling,” Cheadle said about being back.
Seconds later, someone from the crowd came up to thank him for his service.
“I was getting anxious (waiting),” Gordon Cheadle said. “I kept running over what will happen in my head and what happened is what I figured it would be like. I knew they would be hysterical. All I have to do is show my face and I know they will lose it.”
The day was one of mixed emotions for Breanna Cheadle.
The same day her husband came back to the USA, her grandfather, Clay Collins, passed away.
She knew he was in bad shape and talked to Gordon at the airport about going to see Collins the next day. About 2 ½ hours after Gordon Cheadle landed, Collins died.
Gordon Cheadle and Collins were both in the United States Air Force and Collins retired as a Senior Master Sergeant. Collins, 89, will have a memorial service at Gashland Baptist Church in Kansas City at 11 a.m. on Saturday before burial later in Tennessee.