LAYTON -- Tears flowed freely during an assembly Friday at Layton High School after the junior prom queen was announced.
Students gave a spontaneous standing ovation as junior Sabrina Newman had a surprise reunion with her father, who visited on leave from a 22-month deployment.
Sabrina, already in shock from having learned she was to be crowned the junior prom queen, waited anxiously for her name to be announced as she stood with her best friend's dad as her escort, still thinking her dad was away with the military.
As her name was announced, Sabrina tugged on her escort, slightly concerned that he wasn't moving. Sabrina was completely unaware that the emcee had announced the presence of her dad until she felt a tap on her shoulder, turned around and received the best shock of her day.
"My first thought was, 'No, that can't be him,' " Sabrina said. "I had to do a double take to make sure it was him, and then I thought, 'I can't believe he came.' "
Walking down the aisle with her dad, whom she hasn't seen since Christmastime, was an unbelievable moment for her, she said.
She barely noticed the crowd on their feet, clapping and crying in honor of her dad, U.S. Army Maj. Randall Newman, 42, who is currently stationed at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas before his next deployment this fall. He has been gone for nearly two years, having been home on leave on only three other occasions.
Sabrina's mom, DrueAnna Newman, 41, said the experience still gives her goose bumps.
"I wasn't sure if I was more proud of her as the junior prom queen, or because it was so good to see them together and see how close they are, even though they are far apart," DrueAnna said. "Whenever I watch my kids see their dad after a long time, my heart just pounds, because they love their dad so much. To see their emotions is so hard."
DrueAnna Newman said it was overwhelming to see the audience's emotional reaction.
"I didn't realize there was so much patriotism in this state," she said. "It was an amazing moment that I can't even describe."
For Layton High School Vice Principal Mark Pendleton, it was an assembly such as he has never experienced in his six years at the school
He said it started out as a typical dance assembly, where they announce the royalty, but recipients know only that they are royalty members, not their rankings.
"Our kids only really do standing ovations for certain things," Pendleton said. "To have a spontaneous standing ovation for a military officer was just amazing, and everyone was teary-eyed. It was a really nice moment."
Sabrina said having her dad gone is difficult, especially while she is in high school.
"It's really hard, because it's like a part of you is missing," Sabrina said. "I don't think a lot of people understand that feeling, and they take for granted how important their dad is in their life."
Her mother said it has been rough on their family, but they have learned how to work through it.
"You have good and bad days, but we are proud of him serving the country," DrueAnna said.
Thankfully, while he has been stationed in the states, they have made good use of technology, such as Skype, to visit."
Maj. Newman only had a few days of leave for the event. He flew home to Utah the night before the assembly. He was able to keep hidden until he surprised Sabrina at the assembly.