BETHLEHEM, Pa. - There wasn't a dry eye at the Freedom High School graduation ceremony in Bethlehem on Wednesday night.
It was an emotional day for hundreds of parents as their sons and daughters embark on a new beginning, but one father in particular had the greatest honor of all.
U.S. Army Sgt. Owen Neufville has been in the service for more than 20 years.
Over those years, he's missed some big moments with his family: birthdays, basketball games, and the like.
"I've missed quite a bit," Neufville said.
But when Neufville was deployed to Afghanistan a few months ago, there was one special moment his son, Dashaun, just couldn't bear.
"First thing he said was, 'Dad you're going to miss my graduation,'" Neufville said.
It's something that family members and school teachers could tell was bothering Dashaun in the weeks leading up to graduation.
"This one tore him up pretty good," Neufville said.
But little did Dashaun know, about a week ago, his dad started hiding out in Bethlehem.
Neufville has been staying with family members and keeping a low-profile so that Dashaun's graduation could be extra special.
With help from family and school administrators, Neufville plotted the ultimate surprise. His latest mission: Operation Graduation Surprise.
"Once they walk out, magic is going to happen," Neufville said before the ceremony started.
Unlike the rest of the parents at Stabler Arena, Neufville spent the better part of the graduation ceremony in a secret green room.
But moments before Dashaun's name was called, Neufville slyly hopped on stage to hand his son his diploma. Dashaun doubled over with emotion as tears poured from his eyes.
"The best moment of my life," said Neufville, who had one piece of advice for his son:
"Stop crying, your friends are watching," he said with a grin.
Deshaun is headed to Kutztown University in the fall. He plans to study medicine.
Allentown, PA 18102