HUDSON, Ohio (WOIO) - On Memorial Day, we honor those service members who gave their lives to the country. No one realizes the magnitude of the solemn day better than a member of the military. This year, men and women from Northeast Ohio are serving in every branch of the military, putting their lives at risk.
For one Hudson family, though, this Memorial Day -- one they thought they would spend without their daughter -- held a big surprise.
Darby Hartman, a U.S. Army Specialist, had a reunion in store for her family members. Hartman has been deployed in Germany and has not been home for the last eight months. On Memorial Day, she hopped aboard the Hudson Clock Tower Rotary float, taking her place in the parade.
Her dad had positioned the family near the clock tower on Main Street, but her mother, grandmother, and other family members had no idea they'd see Darby.
"I'm so excited. I haven't seen them in about eight months," Hartman said, ahead of the parade kickoff.
Her mother thought she spotted Darby a few minutes into the parade.
“I’m looking and at first I’m like, that looks like Darby," she said.
Her dad, in on the surprise, insisted she was mistaken. As the float got closer, however, it was clear, the woman on the float was the Hartman’s daughter, Darby.
“It’s just so wonderful to see my daughter, I’m so proud of her," said her father, Salvatore Hartman, himself a Navy veteran.
As Darby Hartman jumped off the float to embrace her family members, the large crowd gathered for the parade stood and cheered. For her part, Hartman is happy to be home for the next couple of weeks.
However, on this day, she says she does have a message about Memorial Day and its meaning.
“I feel like I should tell people today, that they should not thank me, but they should pray and thank those who died in this uniform."