Surprise Veterans Reunion Highlights Brenau Graduation Ceremony

When Brenau University President Ed Schrader gave his welcoming remarks at the 2015 commencement, he gave a special acknowledgment to the active duty military personnel and veterans among the graduating class. Schrader singled out one veteran: Debra Cooper from Winder, Georgia, who was about to receive a diploma for a Master of Occupational Therapy degree.

Not only had Cooper served in the U.S. Army herself, Schrader said, but also her daughter, Staff Sgt. Markita James of Dublin, Georgia, was currently serving in Afghanistan.
Then Schrader corrected himself.

“Actually Sgt. James is not in Afghanistan,” he said. “She is here so that she could be with her mother at graduation.”

James had stealthily positioned herself in the audience behind the graduating class, but when Schrader said the words “not in Afghanistan,” mom Cooper got the hint and began frantically looking around. The run-hug-squeal-cry mother and daughter re-union became an instant “YouTube” moment.

“She’s my she-ro,” James later said about her mother.

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