FORT JACKSON, SC (WIS) - It's a ceremony that has happened thousands of times at Fort Jackson, but every single time you watch Family Day it'll give you chills of pride and patriotism like you have never felt before.
When young soldiers enlist, in a sense, their families do, too. So, this day is all about saluting their sacrifice. When the smoke grenades go off, it's just a matter of minutes before the troops come marching out.
In the grandstand, parents, wives, husbands, kids, family and friends from across America, who can't wait to see their soldier
The Surkyn family drove more than nine hours from Apopka, FL to see their son, Derek. Military mom Janice Surkyn admits it was tough sending her 25-year-old son off to basic training.
"Derek...when he was five told us he was going into the army," Surkyn said. "You can't crush somebody's dream because of your fear, you have to support them and let them know you're behind them 100 percent."
It's also been hard on the young soldier's wife. Cheyenne says they got married in December, and he left for training in May.
"I'm extremely proud of my husband I know he's always wanted this," Cheyenne said.
Amber is the proud big sister
"My brother means the world to me, he's like a foot taller than I am but I'm the big sister, so we always took care of each other growing up, and then when I had Trinity he was there from day one," Amber said.
And Trinity, 8, may be the proudest member of her entire family.
"He means a lot to me because like he's been there for my whole life and like, and just, like, him being gone away from me it's just really hard," she said.
Operation Family Day about to explode with excitement but, as always with the military, a few rules in play: No Alcohol or Nicotine products for soldiers; Soldiers may not leave Fort Jackson, and finally - "NO PDA."
And that brings us back to this - the big reunion.
This moment is everything - after 10 weeks of laying it all on the line, they're seeing their loved ones for the first time. Families storm the field to tackle their soldier with hugs and kisses.
Trinity has been such a trooper, she may never let go.
"Letting him go was very difficult but he's doing good things, he worked hard for it," she said.
Private Derek Surkyn - ready to defend and serve.
"It means everything, it's a chance to serve my country take care of my family and not just my way, take care of my whole family, it's a big opportunity it opens up doors in your life that some people don't get an opportunity to have," Pvt. Surkyn said, "and it's a blessing."
Going through basic training completes an incredible transformation, and these soldiers are stronger and tougher every day they wear the State Army uniform.
Back to the "PDA" for a minute - for all the civilians, PDA means Public Display of Affection. So, for some of them, no PDA is a tough rule to get used too!
Basic trainees come to Fort Jackson from different cities and towns across the country, different backgrounds and different walks of life, but they leave here with one mission: to defend and protect the United States of America.