Cheers quickly turned to tears of joy during the first-ever Coleman Junior High pep-rally held Tuesday afternoon, as an eighth-grader was taken by surprise when her older sister returned home on leave from the U.S. Navy.
Brianna Maitland, an eighth-grader at Coleman, thought she had been selected at random to participate in a "Minute to Win It" themed relay race inside J.W. Williams Gymnasium. As Brianna hustled to midcourt for her leg of the relay, she had no idea her sister, Sammantha Sharpe, 20, was ducked down behind the marching band and surrounded by family.
After flinging quite a few tissues out of their box, Brianna turned and ran back toward the baseline, where Sharpe was standing, awaiting an emotional embrace.
“She’s my sister,” Sharpe said in the Coleman locker room as she waited with her family. “It’s been hard on her because when I left, she was still in elementary and couldn’t understand what I was doing and see the bigger picture.”
Sharpe added that Brianna is the youngest of nine siblings of their mixed family. “I think it hit her the hardest. She grew up with me next to her. We shared a room since she was born."
Brianna had not seen her older sister since she left for boot camp in September 2016 and did not expect to reunite until sometime around Sharpe's 21st birthday in February.
Sharpe has spent two years in the U.S. Navy and is now an E3 hospital corpsman. She was first stationed in San Antonio at Fort Sam Houston in February 2017 before transferring to a naval sub-base in Groton, Connecticut later that same year.
Tuesday marked the first time for the 2016 Red Oak High School graduate to return home. While enrolled at ROHS, Sharpe was involved with the Navy ROTC and had friends who were in the military. She thought the benefits of traveling and college seemed ideal.
Her mother, Jammie Maitland, served in the U.S. Coastguard from a short time and grandparents served in U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force.
Sharpe currently works in pediatrics at Naval Branch Health Clinic Graton on the Naval submarine New London.
Lisa Minton, student services liaison at Coleman, has worked out the details of the reveal with the sisters’ mother over the past month.
It was the first time for Minton to witness a military reunion in person and she admitted before that she'd "probably cry.”
“This is about family and being together and honoring each other and not only are they honoring her for serving our country, but we doing something special for them,” Minton expressed. “I love it, it’s wonderful.”
While the pep rally went on the girls' father, Brian Maitland, Sharpe’s stepmom, Tara Cline, and younger sister, Alisha Cline waited in a locker room. Angela Pierce, a family friend, was in the stands videoing.
In the locker room, Tara thought, “Brianna is missing her sister, so it’s emotional.”
After the pep rally, the family surprised the grandparents, Brenda Sharpe and Jan Maitland, at TaMolly's.
Travis M. Smith/Daily Light contributed to this report.