Gator in disguise, Virginia soldier reunites with family - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Gator in disguise, Virginia soldier reunites with family

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PRINCE GEORGE, VA (WWBT) -

It's not something you see every day – a gator walking through an arcade and game park. But underneath the scales, or should we say, fuzz of a life-size gator costume, a member of the Virginia Army National Guard was ready to give his children the surprise of a lifetime.

Within the costume was Staff Sergeant Daniel Shumate, who returned home from Afghanistan Saturday. He has served for 14 years, been deployed three times, and has three children. But for the past three months, Shumate planned to surprise his kids with a reunion at their favorite arcade center.

Shumate landed at Richmond International Airport, drove to Prince George County, and put on the gator costume – the mascot of Swaders Sports Park in Prince George.

His children, Daniel, Haley and David, thought they were headed to their grandmother's birthday party. But they began to become suspicious when they headed upstairs for a personal photo-shoot with the mascot, a genial gator who had been walking around the arcade.

"Turn around Haley," exclaimed a family member during the photo-shoot. Shumate took off the gator head, and the reptile reunion was complete.

"Coming home to these three kids now, at this age that they're at... it's everything to me," Shumate said.

The soldier will be home for at least the next two years. As for plans the children have now that their dad is home, one thing immediately came to mind.

"Beat him at laser tag," the three said.

"Oh no," replied Shumate.

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