WARNER ROBINS -- Master Sgt. David Sims isnt the first airman to pull off a surprise homecoming, but he probably had one of the all-time greats Monday.
Sims is an active-duty computer specialist in Air Force Reserve Command headquarters at Robins Air Force Base. As a part of the Memorial Day ceremonies at the Atlanta Braves game Monday, his family was honored on the field during the game as Hometown Heroes. They watched a video on the big screen of Sims speaking from Afghanistan and were expecting him to return next week from his six-month deployment.
What they didnt know was he had returned early. At the end of the video he said, Wait a minute, then he walked out onto the field. His wife and four children rushed toward him for an emotional embrace, as 40,000 people gave a rousing ovation.
The scene was shown several times over the course of the game, and it ended up on ESPNs SportsCenter, CNN and other national media outlets.
It was nothing like Ive ever experienced before, said his wife, Robin. We didnt expect it to get as big as it got.
Although originally from Texas, Sims said he is a longtime Braves fan, and he jumped at the chance when the Braves reached out to honor a military member returning home. Until he came down to the field, he anxiously watched the game from the press box as he waited to be reunited with his family.
It was unbelievable, he said. It was almost like an out-of-body experience.
The Centerville family has been swamped with media requests for interviews, but they will be getting a break soon as they are about to go on vacation.
We are just ready to get back to our normal lives, he said.
His wife said the children have enjoyed the reaction.
They like their 15 minutes of fame, she said. They like all the cameras and attention.
To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.