Walking across the stage, Krystle Bounds expected to receive her nursing pin and sit down with her classmates. But she got so much more.
As soon as Krystle turned around and realized it was him, she put her hands over her mouth in apparent disbelief.
Shawn, 21, went to Afghanistan in November 2011 and stayed for 10 months before moving to Anchorage, Alaska where he is now stationed.
Although the rest of his family knew he was coming home for Christmas, Krystle, 23, didn't.
“He's not supposed to be here,” she said of her thoughts the moment she saw him. “It was pretty surreal.”
It took a cooperative effort between the Bounds family and UT Tyler faculty to make this happen.
Dr. Pam Martin, associate dean and director of nursing programs, was one of only two people who initially knew about the details.
“It's just a really neat thing that we can be a part of this and share this day with her,” Dr. Martin said.
Although Krystle had to stay on stage and sit with her fellow nursing school graduates during the ceremony, she and her family enjoyed quality time together afterward.
“It was breathtaking,” Mark Bounds said of watching his children share the moment.
Mark credited his wife, who homeschooled all their children, and a pastor, the late Jack Thrift, with having a positive influence on them.
Krystle said she's always wanted to be a nurse. She plans to move to Gonzales, about 75 miles east of San Antonio, where she is seeking work as a critical care nurse.
“I want to help people,” she said. “I enjoy the environment. I enjoy taking care of people. I think it's a way God can use me to help.”
Shawn will stay in East Texas for about three weeks visiting with family and friends before returning to Fort Richardson in Alaska.
He said it was a big day for his sister, and he just wanted to surprise her.
“I'm extremely proud of her,” he said.