Home from deployment, father surprises son

Michelle Beahm photo
Home from deployment, Navy Senior Chief Eric Wynn surprises his son Elijah at Oak Harbor Middle School last week.

“I missed you, buddy.”

Elijah Wynn, an eighth-grader at Oak Harbor Middle School, wasn’t expecting to hear those words at school.

And especially not from his father, a Navy senior chief who’s been stationed in Bahrain since August 2014.

Accompanied by TV and newspaper reporters, Navy Senior Chief Eric Wynn gave his 13-year-old son the surprise of a lifetime on Jan. 20.

Eric previously tried to get back to Oak Harbor for a visit in November, when his son Kyle was born, and in December for Christmas, but both of those visits fell through.

Then he was told Jan. 8, his wife Abigail’s birthday, that he’d get to go home later than month.

“I called her on her birthday to let her know,” Eric said. “It’s not just my son who was very excited, her as well. She said it’s the best birthday present she’s ever received.”

Then he colluded with Abigail and his ex-wife Chastity, Elijah’s mom, to surprise his son at school.

“I don’t surprise him very often because he actually doesn’t like surprises,” Eric said of his son, before the big reveal. “He doesn’t show a lot of emotions because he’s so used to me being gone, but I can imagine that today’s just going to be very special.”

When he finally saw his dad, Elijah looked awe struck for a moment before moving in for a hug.

“I was pretty amazed,” he said, “because I haven’t seen him in a while, and I missed him.”

He said he enjoyed the surprise “probably more than anything.”

“He’s my biggest fan, and I’m his hero, and that’s what dads are supposed to be,” Eric said. “I felt it was very important for me to put this secret surprise on. He’s been waiting a long time to see me.”

Eric arrived in Seattle Saturday, Jan. 17, where he was greeted by Abigail and their two children, 2-year-old Sophie and 2-month-old Kyle. The four of them stayed in Seattle until Monday, when they returned to Oak Harbor. Eric laid low, not leaving the house until the surprise reunion with his son Tuesday.

“He got to bond with his newborn, and now it’s all three of them, so it’s like, here, here are the kids,” Abigail said. “Enjoy it.”

Tuesday was the first time all three of his children were together, since Elijah was staying with his mom during Eric’s deployment.

“It was very hard (to keep the secret) because Elijah is very nosy,” Chastity Wynn joked. “But he never knew that I talked to his dad that day.”

Eric is attached to a Navy riverine group charged with making sure high-valued assets traveling along rivers in the Middle East make it to their destination safely. Home for only two weeks, Eric will be back in Bahrain this month for another eight months.

When he returns to Oak Harbor in September, he plans to retire.

“That’s all I get, 13 days, but I gotta make the most of it,” he said. “I wish I could have more, but … I don’t have that opportunity. When I come home in September, I’ll have all the time in the world.”

Eric got the chance to watch Elijah play a basketball game with his middle school team Tuesday. Other than that, all Elijah said he wanted to do with his dad was, “see him.”

“It took me a minute,” Elijah said of when his dad first walked into his classroom, “then I kind of adjusted. I’m glad that he’s back.”

“It’s difficult,” said Eric of being away from his family, “except for what we do over there is extremely important for us. It’s hard, it really is. It’s really difficult because the kids sometimes just don’t understand why we’re doing what we’re doing.

“Moments like this is what reiterates to them that hey, we are here. We are a part of your lives, even if we’re not physically here. We are in spirit, and when we have the opportunity to visit, we do.”