By Dawn Krebs
ST. LUCIE COUNTY -
May 25 began as a typical day for first-grade student Hunter Shepherd, but it quickly turned into one he will remember for a long time.
That's because it was the day his uncle, 26-year-old Joshua Shepherd, came home on leave from the Navy and surprised him and the rest of Pam Pressley's class at Samuel Gaines Academy in Fort Pierce.
It was his Navy white uniform that Hunter first saw through the classroom window as he approached. Sitting stunned for just a few seconds, he quickly recovered and ran to hug him.
"I missed you very much," Hunter said.
"I missed you, too," the older Shepherd replied with a smile as he scooped him up in his arms and spun around.
Josh Shepherd is a petty officer 2nd class on the USS Carl Vinson. Growing up in St. Lucie County, he attended C.A. Moore Elementary, then Forest Grove Middle before graduating from Fort Pierce Westwood High School in 2004. After receiving an associate of arts degree from Indian River State College, he joined the nuclear program in the Navy.
"I'm happy to have my son home," said Susan Shepherd, blinking back tears. "We have a lot of family time planned."
While Petty Officer 2nd Class Shepherd was away, Ms. Pressley's class sent he and his fellow seamen letters and pictures they drew.
"The letters we got from the kids were pretty funny," he said. "We liked the ones that asked us not to sink."
When the family found out Petty Officer 2nd Class Shepherd was able to come home on leave for Memorial Day, the plan to surprise Hunter at school was formed.
"It was my mom's idea," Petty Officer 2nd Class Shepherd said. "She wanted me to come and pick him up wearing my dress whites."
Meanwhile, Hunter stayed close to his uncle's side.
"This is so touching," said Mrs. Shepherd. "I love both of them so very much."