It's been six-and-a-half months since Maj. Warren P. Sheprow of Red Hook has seen his wife and two sons. That changed with a big surprise Thursday night, March 20, at the opening ceremonies of the CAN/AM hockey tournament.
Warren has been a member of the National Guard since 2000 and has served two tours, first for 17 months and most recently since October in Kuwait. A physician assistant at home, he dealt with orthopedic injuries on wounded soldier's during his time at war.
"From broken ankles to wrists," he said. "Anything you'd see in an emergency room."
Army National Guard Maj. Warren P. Sheprow embraces his sons, Lucas and Max, during the opening ceremonies of the CAN/AM hockey tournament Thursday night, March 20, at the Olympic Center in Lake?Placid. The homecoming was a surprise for Lucas and Max as their father returned home unexpectedly from serving in Kuwait.
(Photo — Matthew Turner)
Warren said the Army no longer offers breaks for a soldier to come home and visit with family due to the cost, which he said was the hardest thing for him to handle during his time in Kuwait.
He arrived in New York Wednesday, but waited 24 hours to surprise his sons Lucas, 11, and Max, 9, hockey players competing in the event.
"I'm already choked up from an emotional standpoint. I can't imagine (seeing them)," Warren said before the opening ceremonies. "The hardest part is this 24 hours I've been waiting to see them, but I can't because of the surprise."
The surprise was setup by coaches on Warren's sons team the Saugerties Colts and CAN/AM staff. Matt Kuzniar, program director at CAN/AM, was involved.
"We heard he might be coming back about two weeks ago," Kuzniar said. "Basically yesterday it's a go because he just arrived."
The plan was simple. Warren would hide in the penalty box and after the national anthem played Lucas would be the last player on the ice carrying a torch.
Lucas was told that when he got to the center of the ice a CAN/AM staff member would direct him the rest of the way to the mini-cauldron. That's when his father appeared, dressed in his army fatigues.
Lucas passed the torch to a CAN/AM staff member and gave his father a hug. Max, who was on the ice with his teammates, then ran from the crowd to his father and all three embraced.
The audience cheered and clapped through the entire moment.
After a long hug and two kisses on the head, Warren took the torch and the three walked together to light the mini-cauldron.
"Oh my God," Warren said. "It's the greatest thing in the world. What these guys did for me is beyond my wildest dreams."
Players and coaches on the ice then formed in a line to meet the returning veteran and shake he and his son's hands.
Kelly Gasior, a hockey mom from Buffalo watched the event unfold from the stands.
"I cried," she said. "That was awesome."