Students at St. Anne’s Catholic School threw a surprise welcome home party Wednesday for Army Sgt. Robert Schroeder, but the biggest surprise was left for Schroeder’s son, William.
William, who had not seen his father in six months, thought the school event Oct. 29 was a mock birthday party in which his mom was coming to read a story to his class. The Barrington school hosts the mock parties for students who have summer birthdays.
“When he opened the door, his dad was there,” said Nancy Meehan, William’s pre-kindergarten teacher.
But before that emotional embrace, students flanked the halls, which were decorated with flags and balloons, while awaiting Schroeder’s entrance.
“We had the school band playing to welcome him when he arrived,” Meehan said.
Home in Lake Barrington for a two-week leave in the middle of a yearlong deployment in South Korea, Schroeder had planned on surprising his son, but didn’t know what he was about to walk into as well.
He told students that he was shocked and extremely honored by St. Anne’s effort in planning the hero’s welcome home party.
After the welcome home ceremony, Schroeder was joined by his wife, infant son, mother and siblings to read the book, “Hero Dad,” to William and his classmates.
“Hero Dad,” by Melinda Hardin, compares a soldier dad to a superhero. Students also wrote letters to Schroeder thanking him for his service.
“It was beautiful,” said Meehan, who has taught for 36 years. “It was a moment to remember. It will stick with me forever as one of the outstanding moments of my career.”
Schroeder is on leave from his third tour of duty. His first two tours were in Iraq.
“It was really a great effort on the part of our church and school community,” she said. “They’re a wonderful family and we’re happy to have them here.”