“I wanted the boys to have a memorable experience that would always be a happy memory of their father coming back to them – they have missed him very badly.” That’s why Shawna Sheriff chose Henry Ford Museum as the spot where her three young boys would be reunited with their dad.
Shawna pulled the plans together with just a two-day notice of her husband, Daniel’s, return. I had the good fortune of being a fly on the wall. (A fly with a camera!).
On Friday, May 25, U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Daniel Sheriff arrived at the museum directly from the airport – and just ahead of his family.
He stationed himself – concealed from view – behind a large column in the Heroes of the Sky exhibit. Daniel is an aircraft mechanic, fueling the boys’ interest in aviation and making the exhibit a great environment for them to be surprised by their dad. It had been six months since he was deployed to the Persian Gulf.
Shawna arrived with the boys, 7-year-old Aiden, 3-year-old Noah and Ethan, who is just 10 months old.
The boys had been told there were camera crews filming a movie at the museum. The idea was to give some logical reason why there would be a handful of people in the exhibit standing in a cluster holding cameras.
I’m pretty sure you could actually feel the anticipation from all the grown-ups – those of us who were party to the surprise and some of the museum visitors who were clued in to the fact that something good was going to happen. A small group hung around the exhibit to see the event unfold.
When Shawna turned the corner with the boys, they immediately spotted the few of us with cameras – regardless of our feeble attempts to look nonchalant.
When they made their way to “the” spot where Daniel would reveal himself, I’m sure they wondered why the cameras were focusing on them.
Then the moment all present were waiting for: Daniel came out and greeted the boys. He knelt down, said hello to them again and removed his hat. It took awhile for it to sink in for them.
After a few quiet moments, it was 3-year-old Noah who first slowly approached Daniel with a look of sweet recognition.
“Oh, my gosh,” he quietly said as he cautiously walked toward his dad. “You’re my daddy!”
And the rest, as they say, is history.
It was really a beautiful sight.
The boys were speechless – oh, I don’t know, for about a whole minute. Then it was all chatter. They were even brave enough to talk to reporters.
Shawna was all smiles, and that dear little baby just seemed to roll with the whole thing.
Observers were moved to tears witnessing the family’s joyful and thankful reunion – just in time for the Memorial Day holiday weekend. Shawna told me she didn’t know how their plans would unfold once Daniel was home – that they would just be spontaneous.
It turns out that they came back to the The Henry Ford Monday and took part in the moving commemoration ceremony in Greenfield Village honoring all military veterans for their service and great sacrifice for our country.
Kristine Hass is a long-time member and frequent blogger for The Henry Ford.