Army soldier surprises sister at Hardin football game

Hardin Drum Major Samantha Keasling is embraced by her brother, Army Pvt. Kendall Keasling at senior night at Friday night's game in Hardin.

There were a lot of hugs and tears at Senior Night prior to Hardin High School’s football game Friday. Walking onto the field escorted by her former band director, Gabrielle Chandler, and current band director, Glenn Zamazal, Drum Major Samantha Keasling became emotional when she spotted the person walking toward her on the 50-yard line. It was her brother, Army Pvt. Kendall Keasling, a 2018 Hardin High School graduate who has been away for several weeks at military training.

“She didn’t know he was coming home,” said their mother, Stephanie. “Kendall is being deployed to Afghanistan in December or January, and Samantha didn’t know if she was going to see him before deployment. It was a complete surprise to her that he showed up at the game.”

Stephanie and her husband, Michael, planned the surprise for Samantha with the help of Chandler, Zamazal and Hardin High School Principal Dr. Bryan Taulton.

“Because of them we were able to pull if off. We hid Kendall in the band concession stand until it was time for Samantha to be announced. The cheerleaders helped us hide him on the opposite side of the track,” Stephanie said.

Hardin Drum Major Samantha Keasling starts to cry after spotting her brother, Kendall, walking toward her during senior night at Friday night’s game in Hardin. She was surprised Kendall came home for a brief visit before his deployment to Afghanistan. She was escorted onto the field by Gabrielle Chandler, former band director, and Glenn Zamazal, band director.

As Samantha’s name was announced over the loud speaker, the cheerleaders stepped aside to reveal Kendall. With hugs and tears, the siblings greeted each other before stepping aside for the other seniors to be presented.

After Hardin’s victorious 18-14 game over Anahuac, the siblings hung out together at Whataburger. The trip home for Kendall was short-lived. On Saturday morning, he and his parents already were en route to Fort Carson, Colo., where Kendall will be stationed until his deployment to Afghanistan.

Much of his three-day leave was spent on the road traveling to and from Texas, but Kendall said the surprise for his sister and the visit with his family was worth it as he will probably not be home for the holidays this year.

By Vanesa Brashier,

Photos for this story were graciously provided by Angel Rick Leal with RickStar Photography.

Samantha Keasling tries to stop the flood of tears after being reunited with her brother, Army Pvt. Kendall Keasling, at Friday night’s game in Hardin.
Siblings Kendall and Samantha Keasling greet each other with hugs and tears at Friday night’s game in Hardin.
Army Pvt. Kendall Keasling rushes to his sister, Samantha, with open arms at Friday night’s game in Hardin. The siblings have not seen each other in weeks while Kendall is away at military training before his deployment to Afghanistan.


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Before creating Bluebonnet News in 2018, Vanesa Brashier was a community editor for the Houston Chronicle/Houston Community Newspapers. During part of her 12 years at the newspapers, she was assigned as the digital editor and managing editor for the Humble Observer, Kingwood Observer, East Montgomery County Observer and the Lake Houston Observer, and the editor of the Dayton News, Cleveland Advocate and Eastex Advocate. Over the years, she has earned more than two dozen writing awards, including Journalist of the Year.

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