- Associated Press - Monday, March 28, 2016

BATESVILLE, Ark. (AP) - For Air Force Sgt. Bradley Skelton, keeping his location secret from his mom was more difficult than being on a mission in Afghanistan.

The Batesville Daily Guard (https://bit.ly/22IcYSi ) reports that for two weeks he had been stateside and he continually had to remind himself to keep his contact with her consistent with a different time-frame and not to post anything on social media that would pique her curiosity.

His sister, Shannon Medlin, had also struggled with keeping it a secret.

Every time she talked to their worried mother, Kelly McSpadden, she wanted to tell her, “It’s all good, he’s home.”

But giving their mother peace of mind would have to wait until last week.

The two siblings could barely contain their excitement while they waited for Kelly’s husband, Don McSpadden, to arrive at Citizens Bank and pick their mother up for lunch.

“It’s also their anniversary,” Shannon explained.

While waiting outside the bank, Shannon had to remind Bradley more than once to stay hidden so they could time it at the exact moment she left her office. Several of Kelly’s co-workers, who were leaving for lunch, opted to stay and watch the reunion when they recognized Bradley and Shannon.

As Kelly walked out, she was greeted not by her husband, but by the son she thought would not be home for two more weeks.

“Bradley! Oh, my God!” she screamed, hugging and trying to take it all in at the same time.

The excited mother was able to let Bradley out of her sight long enough to take the flowers inside, but was soon hugging him again.

Shannon explained this was his third mission. “His other two deployments weren’t as scary as this one,” she said.

Their celebration won’t stop with a wedding anniversary and surprise homecoming luncheon.

“We’re finally going to have Christmas. Mom and Don keep the tree up until the kids can all be home. This time Christmas is in March,” Shannon said.

“I haven’t had a Christmas Day on Christmas in six years. And, I’ve spent four Thanksgivings eating military chow.”

Bradley said as air adviser, his job was to help train Afghan maintenance to work on aircraft. The 2006 Batesville graduate was named Crew Chief of the Year in 2015.

Earlier that morning they pulled off another secret visit when they surprised grandparents, Gerald and Sandy Dale, who live in Cushman.

“They didn’t even recognize me,” Bradley said.

Shannon said with a laugh, “They thought I had brought home a boy.”

But even after those two exciting events they still had one more left.

Knowing their father had an appointment at the Mark Martin dealership later that afternoon, they headed out to surprise him too.

And while Keith Skelton spotted them before they could pull it off, he had tears of joy when he saw his children.

Kelly later said her first reaction was disbelief. “I couldn’t even cry. I was shocked. I’ve just been so worried, praying every day for his safety. I’m really proud of him. It’s been a great day.”

This time when Bradley leaves he will be headed for Abilene where he will be stationed, and that brings his family some peace.

And, he won’t have to keep his location a secret.

___

Information from: Batesville Guard, https://www.guardonline.com/

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