After a holiday performance Sunday at the Akron Civic Theatre, a man walked onto the stage.
Sadie Kelley’s heart began to beat faster.
“I could see a man in uniform. But I couldn’t tell what uniform it was or who it was,” said Kelley, a seventh-grader in Field schools’ Falcon Academy of Creative Arts.
As the military man came closer, Kelley melted. She recognized her father, who lives in North Carolina and has been fighting overseas for most of the past six years.
“I didn’t know if I was dreaming,” said Kelley, who ran into her father’s arms.
Staff Sgt. Jesse Kelley has made a career of the Army, serving three years in Germany, three tours in Iraq and two more in Afghanistan, from where he returned in October.
Sadie spent Thanksgiving Day at Fort Bragg in North Carolina this year, having last seen her father in January prior to his recent deployment.
The time away is tough on the young girl, who added that her parents’ separation has made it more difficult.
“My dad is my best friend,” she said.
“I think people are really lucky to see their parents every day. If I could see my dad every day, it would be so perfect.”
It’s tough on Dad, too.
“It’s truly hard on your family to be away from them for so long, especially multiple times,” said Kelley, who isn’t sure where — or when — the Army will send him next. “I don’t live with my daughter, so I don’t have a lot of opportunities to do things for her, but I try my hardest to be a part of my daughter’s life.”
It’s bittersweet each time Sadie sees her father, she said.
The two will be together again after Christmas, when Kelley again travels north to see his daughter.
Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or firstname.lastname@example.org.