Military Homecoming: Castillo’s return cause for celebration

by Braden Weinel, Managing Editor

After serving overseas in Kuwait for the past year, John Castillo returned home and surprised his daughter, Mikaila White at school. Castillo is a Sergeant in the United States Army National Guard, but before that he is a father and a husband. 

Castillo and his wife, Stephanie, had been planning this special surprise for three days and made it happen on Friday, January 17 in Mrs. Amber McCauley’s physics of earth and space science class. 

At approximately 8:30 a.m, assistant principal Michelle Gilmore knocked on the classroom door and whispered to McCauley. The students in the class looked puzzled until, out of nowhere, Castillo, already teary-eyed, walked through the door and straight to where his oldest daughter was sitting. 

White immediately buried her face into her hands in disbelief and began to cry. She hugged her father as if she would never let go. The rest of the class applauded and smiled, and even some of White’s closest friends were quick to hug her. Following the reunion, administration offered donuts and juice to the class in celebration of the homecoming before Castillo was off to surprise the rest of his four children. 

White was completely shocked seeing her father return from 6,500 miles overseas. She couldn’t believe that he was really there. 

“I thought it was a dream,” said White. “It didn’t sink in until we got into the car to go surprise my brothers and sister.”

It was clear that this moment meant a lot for White; however, it was also moving for anyone who witnessed the father-daughter reunion. 

“This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and it was just wonderful to see,” said McCauley. “I’m just grateful that he could come back, grateful for his service, and grateful that I could be a part of what happened today.” 

Business teacher, Roger Rich was in the room recording as part of a ruse that McCauley and he had planned. They told the class that the camera was set up for a teacher evaluation, but after White and Castillo reunited with hugs and tears, the camera was only on the pair. 

Fellow classmate and friend, Emily Cohen noticed the camera and extra personnel in the room but believed it was for the evaluation video. She even said to herself, “Why are there so many people here?” When she saw Castillo walk in, she grasped hold of what was going on, but the camera wasn’t important to her, she was just happy for her friend. Cohen shares second period Spanish with White, too. The exciting mood carried on to their second class and, ultimately, throughout the day. 

Cohen said, “It was very uplifting.”

The mood extended to the whole school. The good news spread fast, and soon every student and staff member knew about the happy homecoming. 

“I am obsessed with military homecoming videos! That’s great news,” said senior Alexis Fowler when she heard about it just two classes later. 

There are currently 15 million children in the U.S with a parent in the military and Since 2001, more than 2 million American children have had a parent deployed at least once. Castillo has been serving in the U.S Military for 13 years, since White was two years old. According to the Frederick County, Maryland government website, there are more than 18,000 veterans living and working in Frederick County. 

“It’s great knowing that someone you love is fighting for your country, but it’s hard because you never know when they have to leave,” said White.

Braden Weinel
Castillo reunites with his family.