Staff meetings at Sunglass Hut, a retail brand of Luxottica, are always high-spirited events involving noisemakers, lots of cheering and, of course, sunglasses.
But a Friday morning meeting brought even more excitement after a soldier returning home early from an overseas deployment surprised his mother at the office.
Army National Guard Sgt. Travis Burton returned home earlier this week after a six-month deployment to Afghanistan.
The 1998 Winton Woods graduate wasn’t set to return for another six weeks, but volunteered to come home early to allow another soldier on stand-by to take his place.
For Tika Burton of Green Hills, it was just another day at the office, where she works as communications specialist. Little did she know her son had conspired with coworkers to plan the surprise homecoming.
When Travis walked through the door, a shocked Tika fell into his arms. There she stayed for the next 10 minutes.
“This is my hero,” Tika told the crowd, fighting back tears. “I’ve missed him so much.”
“I think she was surprised,” a grinning Travis said.
The tour marked the second deployment for Travis, 33. In 2009, he served a one-year tour in Iraq with the 82nd Airborne Division.
After that, he enlisted with the National Guard and made his way to New York, hoping to get hired on as a New York City firefighter. When the job market fizzled, he volunteered to go to Afghanistan.
“When he first told me, I was devastated,” said Tika, 66. “Then I had to just let go. I knew it was what he wanted to do. It’s the kind of person he is.”
Mother and son kept in close contact throughout Travis’ deployment, chatting on Skype and emailing every other day. Tika regularly sent care packages to her son’s 11 team members.
“Each guy on our team gets a birthday cake from Mama Tika,” said Travis. “Every care package from her is big, we all fight over them.”
Travis said he volunteered to return home early at his commander’s request so that he could enroll this fall at the University of Cincinnati. He plans to study criminal justice and become a police officer.
Tika said she’s used to surprises from Travis, the family’s practical jokester and a generous gift-giver, but Friday’s surprise reunion will be hard for him to top.
“This is the best surprise ever,” she said. “I still can’t believe he’s here.”