Army Sergeant Shannon Taylor was reunited with his daughter Brianna at Cotaco School on Friday after spending the past nine months in Afghanistan. | Clif Knight

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Soldier surprises daughter at Cotaco School

Published 7:53pm Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A well kept secret at Cotaco School resulted in a happy homecoming for an Army dad and his l3-year-old daughter on Friday afternoon when he appeared in an Indian mascot’s uniform while she was cheering at a school pow wow.

Brianna Taylor had last seen her father, Sergeant Shannon Taylor, nine months ago when he deployed for Afghanistan with the 1312 Engineering Detachment. Alabama Army National Guard. She was unaware that he and 11 other soldiers in his unit had completed their one-year overseas assignment three months early and were already back in the states.

At the request of Brianna’s mother, Dottie Dudley, school administrators agreed to go along with a surprise homecoming for the soldier and his daughter.

Arrangements were made to hold a pow wow (pep rally) in the school gym to coincide with Sergeant Taylor’s arrival at the school. While Brianna and the other cheerleaders were inside the gym leading students in cheers, Taylor was in the concessions room getting dressed in the school’s mascot’s uniform.

After several cheers, Brianna was asked to come forward by the cheerleading sponsor, who announced that Brianna had been chosen to serve as cheer captain for the school’s first football game the following week. At that moment in walked the Indian mascot, carrying a cheer captain’s notebook of instructions. After handing the notebook to Brianna, he took off the mascot’s headpiece and revealed himself.

Both embraced and held on to each other as the student body stood and applauded loudly.

“I was so surprised and I couldn’t believe what was happening,” said Brianna. “It has been so long and I have missed him so much. I’m so glad to have him home.”

“She has changed a lot in nine months,” Taylor said of his daughter. “She really looks good.”

He added, “I want to thank all of the teachers and others who kept my arrival a secret. It made it possible for us to have a very special and a very emotional reunion.”

“What happened here lets me know that people don’t forget us even though we’ve been at war in Afghanistan for a long time. It’s an honor for me to serve my country.”

Another happy homecoming occurred later the same day when Taylor and his son Chipper, a junior at Brewer High School, met at a pre-game meal prior to the West Point football game.

Taylor served in the Marine Corps prior to joining the National Guard and was deployed in Iraq in 2008. He resides in Anniston and is employed at the Anniston Army Depot.

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