Saturday was a very big day for Cassandra Ladika.
It grew even bigger just before she stepped on stage at the Sundome in Tampa a little before 9 a.m. That's when she was greeted by her brother, Army Specialist Taylor Livingston.
"Oh my God," screamed the University of South Florida Communications major as she caught a glimpse of Taylor minutes before she received her degree from School President Judy Genshaft.
The solider returned to his Ellenton home Friday night but family members managed to keep his visit a secret from Ladika.
"It's amazing," she said after coming off the Sundome stage. "I had been bugging him to come for quite some time and here he is. It's great."
When Specialist Livingston, 21, arrived at his Manatee County residence on Friday he too was greeted with an unexpected surprise. Relatives and some friends - with assistance from a handful of ‘Christmas Elves' with Florida Power - had decorated his home for the holidays.
How did Livingston manage to keep his sister from finding out about his visit? It certainly wasn't easy.
"We were worried about [her finding out on] Facebook," Livingston explained. "I kept checking it every day."
Following the graduation ceremony brother and sister had a big day planned.
"I am just so glad to be here," Livingston added. "I am here until after the beginning of the year and I am looking forward to spending some time with her."
The Black Hawk Helicopter mechanic has been stationed in El Paso, Texas for the past nine months after serving one year in Afghanistan. Specialist Livingston is scheduled to head back overseas following his brief leave.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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