Soldier surprises son at school

Published 3:27 pm Thursday, January 12, 2012

Clanton Middle School eighth grader Kylan Zeigler was surprised Thursday when his father, Master Sgt. Carl Zeigler, visited unannounced. The elder Zeigler is on a two-week leave from service in Afghanistan.

Clanton Middle School eighth grader Kylan Zeigler wasn’t sure what to think when Principal Don Finlayson summoned Kylan to his office Thursday morning.

Everything made sense when Kylan’s father, Master Sgt. Carl Zeigler, walked in and gave his son a hug.

Carl returned to Chilton County on Jan. 12 for a two-week leave from his service in Afghanistan.

He was deployed to Kuwait in May 2011 for six months and began his Afghan tour of duty six weeks ago.

From left, Audrey Zeigler, Rylan Caffee, Carl Zeigler, Kylan Zeigler, Kaden Caffee and Jasmine Caffee stand together in the Clanton Middle School office after Carl's surprise visit with Kylan.

Carl was deployed to Afghanistan with a unit out of South Carolina and was previously a first sergeant with a deployment support command unit in Birmingham.

Carl has served in the United States Army for almost 29 years. He and his wife, Audrey, live in Verbena, and in addition to their son, Kylan, they have a daughter, Jasmine Caffee, 24.

Caffee and her children, Kaden, 4, and Rylan, 9 months, accompanied Audrey and Carl for the surprise visit at CMS on Thursday, which also happened to be Kaden’s birthday.

“He got a great birthday present,” Audrey said as she looked at her husband.

Carl said he deliberately scheduled his leave so that he could be home for Kaden’s birthday as well as Kylan’s, which is on Jan. 19.

“I set my time so I could make it,” he said, adding that his plans for the next two weeks are to spend time with his grandkids and family, eat and attend church.

This is also Carl’s first time to see his grandson Rylan in person.

“We’ve been communicating through Skype,” Audrey said. “We’re just so grateful for technology so the grandkids can know him. We have had family support (and) a lot of support from people in the community, neighbors, helping us adjust to his deployment.”