A soldier came home to surprise her sister after three long years of deployment.
Military families will tell you that regardless of the number of deployments, they never get used to their loved ones being away. In addition to missing them, there is also the uncertainty of not knowing whether they are ok or not. Phone calls, emails, and letters give temporary peace of mind but nothing beats holding that person in your arms.
Shane Rader is in the Army, deployed in Europe for the last three years. Rader was stationed in Italy, unable to take time off to visit his family in Arizona often.
When he left, his sister Elizabeth was only 13 years old. It was hard for the teen who was close to her brother to all of a sudden go on about her daily life without having him around all the time.
Outside of Germany, Italy has the highest number of military bases in Europe. Soldiers are stationed there for a maximum of five years.
Italy works as a launch pad to mobilize the American military to the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and Asia. Italy’s direct access to international waters makes it an ideal location for American troops to set base here.
The military has bases in countries like Israel, Germany, Japan, Kosovo, Kuwait, and South Korea. There are approximately 156,000 military personnel stationed around the world.
There are approximately 13,000 troops and 16,000 military family members living in Italy today.
The Army specialist is a paratrooper assigned to Company C, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade.
Rader’s brigade is a specialized unit that can be deployed within 18 hours to Europe, Africa, and Central Command. The brigade provides rapidly deploying forces to Europe, Africa, and Central Command areas of responsibility within 18 hours.
And although Shane Rader may have been stationed in the country of wine and art, there is nothing like home. Rader willingly made the sacrifice to be away from home to serve his country, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t miss them.
When he was notified in December he had completed his duty, he wanted to keep the news to himself. He did tell his older brother John, 37, but asked him not to say anything. “He let me know, but he didn’t want to tell anyone else,” John told Inside Edition.
In fact, Rader was a professional when it came to keeping his secret. “He played it off through Snapchat, and made it seem like he was still in Italy and would be there for a while,” John says.
Rader knew just how many things happen over the course of 36 months. Being away for three years means he missed birthdays, Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and every other special holiday and event.
On Monday February 27, 2017, John picked up their younger sister Elizabeth from school. He dropped her off at the family home and took off.
John went to pick up Rader to take him home and surprise the 16-year-old. The family dog was the first one to recognize the military man, barking happily.
But Elizabeth didn’t pay much attention to the barking until she looked up. She was clearly scared at first but she clued in almost immediately that it was her brother who was hovering over her.
Elizabeth let out a scream. What followed was the realization that her big brother was home.
She jumped on her brother and just held him there. There were no words, just holding him tight.
Maybe she needed to feel the bear hug to know that this was real; he was home. There was just so much to catch on; school, extra-curricular activities, friends, dances.
Elizabeth probably had so much to tell her brother, starting out with just how much she missed him. Rader probably wanted to tell her about his experience serving. But at that moment it was about embracing one another.
She must have grown quite a few inches since he left home when she was 13. He was 19 years old when he was deployed, he must have changed a lot not just from the rigorous training but as a person.
Despite three years apart, their bond was not broken. This is because they were close, according to John.
“They grew up together, they always lived together,” John reveals. “(Our older sister and I) were already old enough that we moved out of the house, so they were the only siblings they had growing up,” he explains.
Elizabeth may have had a couple surprises in her lifetime. But none can topple this one.
When they let go of their long embrace, the teen was still not over her shock. She asks her brother when he got back.
It is all too real to finally have him home. Elizabeth is at a loss for words. We are sure after getting over her shock, she will have plenty to talk about.
Concluding his service with the Army, Rader is ready to take courses in his state. He wants to become an auto mechanic.
Watch the emotional video of Shane Rader coming home.