Fairmont State University is excited to welcome Private First Class Kenneth Stahl to the Falcon Family after being deployed with the United States Army National Guard for 11 months.
After attending boot camp, Kenneth was told he was being deployed. He arrived in Kuwait for two days, moving to Iraq for about 6 months, then to Syria, and finally Kuwait for about four months.
“When I was over there I had a lot of time to think and I thought education would be a great opportunity. I’m going to use the benefits I got when I joined the Guard, so why not use them and go to a school that’s super close?” Kenneth said. “I’ve been in Fairmont almost my whole life. I’ve always wanted to go to this school and now I get to, so I’m super excited about that.”
Fairmont State is part of the reason Stahl is home. While on leave for the next 50 days, Kenneth will be starting his first semester at the University. He is working to get a degree in physical education.
Before leaving for his deployment, Kenneth was already watching YouTube videos of other soldiers surprising their parents and he wanted to do the same.
“I had this idea—my dad would know and when he would go to take a photo I would move into the picture,” he said. “Then (Del.) Mike (Angelucci, D-Marion) had a great idea to get the cops involved. I wasn’t sure about my dad at that point. Then I kept thinking about it every couple days and I decided to do it."
At first, Kenneth wasn’t sure how his dad would respond to something like that, but the more he thought about it, he decided to go for it.
“That day, my dad did everything to avoid us and he didn’t even know we were there. I had to keep moving from one spot to another,” he said. “I wish my brother would’ve gotten a recording inside the car, my mom was freaking out. She said if they were going to pull me over they would’ve done it by now and the minute she said that we did.”
That’s when he was reunited with his mom, Nancy Stahl, dad, and brother. In the video that went viral in less than 24 hours, it captures Nancy’s reaction after seeing her son for the first time in almost a year. The viral video can be seen here.
Nancy had no clue what was going on.
“I just thought I was getting a speeding ticket but when the cop asked us to get out of the car, I didn’t know what was going on,” she said. “I didn’t think anything of it, so I got out and was upset. I was looking down at the ground and when I looked up, there goes Kenneth and I flew.”
In that moment excitement was all Nancy said she felt.
“He’s home and he’s safe in my arms, that’s what matters. Every time we would FaceTime or call, every time he would hang up, I was just really upset and cry,” she said. "My husband would say he’s going to be fine. It was upsetting, it was hard. I knew he was doing something for our country, and it was well worth it, but I missed him a lot.”
While she knew that Kenneth had been accepted to Fairmont State, she didn’t know he would be coming home early.
“I am so excited for him and especially for his major. He wants to be a PE teacher, so it’ll be good,” she said. “It’s just really exciting that he’s home safe and he gets to do this.”