Soldier surprised with multi-holiday celebration before deployment
LAKE ST. JOHN — The holidays are a time for family, friends and celebration, but local U.S. Army National Sgt. Tyler Stacy won’t be spending Thanksgiving and Christmas with his family this year.
Tyler, 21, is heading to Afghanistan soon with the Guard, but that did not stop his family from moving Thanksgiving and Christmas up a few months, so they could spend the family’s favorite holidays with their soldier.
Tyler’s family rented a house on Lake St. John last week and gathered family and friends at the lake for a “see you soon” party. The party doubled as the family’s early Thanksgiving and Christmas celebration before Tyler leaves for training on July 15 and then heads to Afghanistan.
The family enjoyed a Thanksgiving and Christmas style dinner with ham, green bean casserole sweet potato casserole and more Saturday.
“It’s not a farewell party, it’s not goodbye, it’s just see you soon,” said Tyler’s mother, Regina Bandy.
But he didn’t have to go. After Tyler’s family gushes about how proud they are of Tyler’s service to his country, his faith and strength, they are quick to point out that Tyler didn’t have to go to Afghanistan.
A year ago Tyler’s unit, the 857th Horizontal Engineering Company of Picayune, found out they would have to go to Afghanistan when it was their turn.
As the unit was recently getting ready to go, Tyler said he received a promotion to sergeant in another unit in Calhoun City that had already served in Afghanistan.
“It was an ideal situation because he wouldn’t have to go over there,” said Tyler’s stepfather, Kevin Bandy. “But that’s not what he felt he needed to do.”
Tyler said he did not feel comfortable taking a leadership role over soldiers who had served in Afghanistan when he had not served there himself, so he said he decided to transfer back to his old unit.
“I didn’t want to leave them behind,” Tyler said. “It’s difficult to describe, but I just felt like I needed to be there with people I came up with, and I didn’t want them to go over there without me. I felt I had a responsibility to them, to go with them.”
And Tyler hasn’t looked back since deciding to go with his unit to Afghanistan.
“I never second-guessed my decision, not once,” he said. “I never doubted that it is exactly what I needed to do.”
Tyler’s father, Bryan Stacy, said he has full confidence in his son’s strength and abilities.
“They couldn’t have picked a better one,” Bryan said. “I just want him to go over there, do his job and come home safely, and I want the nation and the military and the community to be proud of him just like I am.”
Tyler’s camouflage uniform cap lay underneath a miniature white Christmas tree with red, white and blue ribbons as the family surprised Tyler with Christmas gifts just like Christmas morning.
As Tyler and his family were overcome with emotion while he was opening presents, his big brother Colin rested his hand on Tyler’s shoulder and told his family how proud he was.
“Tyler is my little brother, and I look up to him,” Colin said. “He is doing this because he is a man of honor, a man of sacrifice,” Colin said.
Tears fell as Tyler’s family surrounded him to pray protection over him during his time in Afghanistan.
“God, as Tyler goes over there to serve not just his country but to serve you as well, we ask your protection will be over him,” Kevin prayed.
But Tyler won’t be the only one making a sacrifice, his family, like so many other families across the nation with soldiers in service, will be making a sacrifice, too.
“It’s going to be really hard on me,” Regina said. “Even during his basic training was hard.”
“But we are very close, and those milesapart are not going to stop that,” Regina said wiping tears from her eyes.
Tyler’s 14-year-old sister, Rachel, said she admires her big brother for the choice he has made to serve in Afghanistan.
“I really look up to him,” she said. “It’s going to be really, really hard without him here. But I am so proud of him, and it’s great what he is doing.”
Tyler is a heavy equipment engineer and will be cleaning up in Afghanistan in preparation for rebuilding, which is what Colin, 23, said makes him
“He is going to be part of bringing other soldiers back home to their families, and he is going to be an important part of rebuilding the homes and village and the lives of the people in Afghanistan,” Colin said.
Sister Gina, 25, struggled to find the words that could describe the extent of her brother’s bravery.
“It’s a very noble act,” she said. “He has always been very selfless and would do anything for anybody.”
Tyler’s aunt, Sherry Carnegie, said Tyler is one-of-a-kind.
“His strength is something you don’t see in your everyday young adult,” Carnegie said.
Mitzi Callon, Tyler’s aunt, said having Thanksgiving and Christmas with Tyler before he leaves was very important to their family.
“It’s the time of year that we all come together and see each other, the time of year where everyone makes sure they make it here to see everyone,” she said. “It’s been a wonderful being able to spend this last week with Tyler and have our family together for him for the holidays before he leaves.”
Tyler said he does not have any fear about going to Afghanistan and knows he has strong faith and plenty of support.
“God is my main anchor, but my family is my second anchor. Anything I need or anything they could possibly do, they do it,” Tyler said as tears welled up in his eyes. “They didn’t have to do all this for me, but they did, and it means so much.”