Press Room

Soldier's surprise visit to Mom sure beats e-mail





Pfc. Courtney Paul made a promise to her mother: to send a one-sentence e-mail each day from Iraq.

And for the most part, she did. But in recent days, when communication wasn't constant and Memorial Day got the best of her, Maribeth Moreland Reeder started to worry.

To her great surprise, a greeting awaited her at work Thursday. And this time, it was delivered in person.

As Moreland Reeder emerged from the ladies restroom, she was met by hundreds of co-workers, her family and Paul, dressed in her fatigues, straight from Orlando International Airport.

It took Moreland Reeder a couple of seconds to notice Paul, who stepped forward and engulfed her mother in a hug.

Everyone but Mom knew Paul, an Olympia High School graduate, was coming home.

"You've been Punk'd," eldest daughter Callie Paul said to her mother as the crowd applauded and wiped away tears.

"This is Private Paul," Moreland Reeder said, introducing her baby-faced daughter to the employees of Dynetech.

Co-workers had come to know Paul through her mother's photo-adorned office and through the emotional ups and downs of her daughter's deployment. At Christmas, Dynetech adopted Paul and her Army battalion. The office shipped 15 oversize boxes -- stuffed with homemade cookies, music, DVDs, crossword puzzles and candy -- to Iraq. Christmas decorations and 60 handwritten cards accompanied the gifts.

About that time, Paul, 20, connected with Janet Pino, Dynetech's executive vice president, and started plotting her surprise. Initially, Paul planned to return to Orlando in July, around her mother's birthday. But after receiving word that her stay in Iraq had been extended, Paul moved up the trip home.

"I knew I was going to surprise my mother one way or another," Paul said.

She brought in her sister to help with the logistics. Pino took care of the arrangements at work. They waited until Wednesday night to include Moreland Reeder's husband because they feared he might let the secret slip.

The hardest part, though, was keeping it from Mom on Memorial Day, when emotions were high during a family cookout. Moreland Reeder displayed a candle and Paul's picture as a way to honor her and have her close by.

"I told her [Mom] that she [Paul] would be here before she knew it," Callie Paul said.

Little did Moreland Reeder know it would be a matter of days.

"I'm so glad you came home sooner," Paul's mother said, giddy with shock. "I was in disbelief . . . the best feeling I've ever had."

At the office reunion, Paul honored Dynetech for its support of her and the troops, presenting employees with plaques from the 92nd Military Police Battalion. One is now displayed in the lobby.

In Moreland Reeder's office, there are plenty of reminders of her daughter's service: Paul in uniform. Paul as a gunner.

"See, Peanut, I sit at my desk all day and look at you," she said to her daughter.

It's here that Moreland Reeder also waits for her daily dispatches from Iraq.

"As long as I get that," she said, "I can keep plodding along."

Sarah Langbein can be reached at or 407-420-5020.

Press Search
Orlando Business Journal's Best Places to Work 2006

The Inner City 100

Orlando Sentinel Top 100 Companies for Working Families