Then-22-year-old Shane Rader returned home to Gilbert, Arizona, from a three-year deployment in the U.S. Army, and he gave his adoring teenage sister the shock of a lifetime when he walked into the house. Their emotional reunion, caught on camera, was memorable.
Rader had gone off to serve in the Army and had spent three years deployed in Italy. He and his brother, John Rader, then 37, had decided to keep Shane’s return a secret from their younger sister, Elizabeth Copeland, who was 16 at the time.
Shane and Elizabeth had shared a close bond since childhood, and Elizabeth had missed her brother dearly during his long absence. “They grew up together, they always lived together,” John later explained to Inside Edition.
John and their older sister were already grown up and had moved out of the house, he said, adding, “so they were the only siblings they had growing up.”
In a video that has since been published on YouTube, John and Shane entered the family home with the video camera rolling. The dog starts barking, and Elizabeth is unaware of what is about to happen. She is watching television in the living room.
Take a look at the beautiful moment a soldier returned home after three years to surprise his sister 💖Credit: Caters News Agency
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Shane, in plain clothes, strides unexpectedly into the room, giving his sister a bit of a scare as she turns and sees him right next to her. Then she realizes who it is and lets out a gasp as her jaw drops. “Shane!” she cries out, as she leaps onto him for a full-body hug that lasts a good minute or so.
Finally letting go, Elizabeth, in tears, asks her brother: “I was just talking to you; how, were you on a plane?” And the brothers confess their premeditated surprise.
“He played it off through Snapchat,” John admitted to Inside Edition, “and made it seem like he was still in Italy and would be there for a while. He let me know, but he didn’t want to tell anyone else.”
Since being shared on YouTube in March of 2017, the clip has garnered nearly 1 million views.
According to Military.com, it can be hard for the family when imminent deployment looms on the horizon.
“The soldier is preparing to go, so he is pulling back from the family,” explained Navy captain Daphne Brown, who is also a clinical psychologist at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. “He has to invest in the mission.”
The lack of communication, Brown added, can be frightening for the families left behind. Keeping the family together and communicating regularly is paramount, the military website advises. Many families make videos to share online or send care packages to their loved ones overseas.
“This communication is critical to expressing love and appreciation over long distance,” say the experts. Not to mention staying in touch via personalized mail allows the soldier to continue feeling involved in family life, minimizing the shock of reintegration upon coming home.
Reintegration aside, the biggest shock in the Rader-Copeland household at Shane’s homecoming was Elizabeth’s. “I loved Elizabeth’s reaction,” older brother John later told the Daily Mail.
“You can tell just how excited and overcome with emotion she was,” he added. “Both my family and I all cried at the reaction, it was such a lovely moment to witness.”