When students go off to college, separation from their family can be one of the most difficult adjustments to make.
But for two twin sisters attending the University of Missouri, even though they were staying at home while they pursued their degrees, they understood what it’s like to be separated from a family member.
Maria and Micela Kemerling’s father, Capt. Kody Kemerling, is in the Army Reserves.
The 19-year-old twins hadn’t seen their father in 10 months since he was deployed to Kuwait.
Military deployment is difficult for everyone involved. For both the soldier forced to leave his family and the family he leaves behind, the pangs of separation are felt by all.
The cheerleading sisters missed their father. They lamented that he couldn’t watch them cheering at the collegiate level.
But they were accustomed to the painful reality of deployment. Their father had previously been deployed while they were in high school.
“It’s been difficult. But we’ve experienced a deployment before. He was deployed our Freshman year of high school, and that was definitely harder than this one because we didn’t know what to expect,” Maria told Inside Edition.
The girls were cheering at a recent basketball game that pitted the Missouri Tigers against the Arkansas Razorbacks. They also had another important job to do.
Prior to the game, the girls were told to go to mid-court to be honored on their father’s behalf for Veterans United Hero of the Day.
The two girls stood in front of the cheering crowd, waved their pom-poms, and smiled. Little did they know they were being set up for the surprise of a lifetime.
“All of a sudden I just felt someone grabbing on to me,” Micaela said.
Both girls were shocked to see their father rush from behind them and hug them close. He smiled from ear-to-ear, and once they understood what was going on, they were beaming too.
“My initial reaction was, ‘Who is grabbing me, like what is going on?’ and then I turned my head and realized it was him,” said Micaela.
“We had no idea that he was going to be there.”
The girls were overcome, and the cool, upbeat composure typically adopted by cheerleaders quickly went out the window.
“I instantly started crying,” Maria said. “It was my first reaction.”
The Tigers would go on and beat the Razorbacks in an important tournament game. But nobody left the arena feeling better than the Kemerling twins and their father.
“It was super special and it was really special to share it in front of the whole Mizzou family,” Micaela said.