New Jersey soldier honored with surprise welcome home celebration

MARLTON, New Jersey (WABC) -- A group of hundreds of students and community members surprised a soldier with a welcome home celebration Friday after he recently returned from deployment.

They called it a "Rockstar Welcome." It included a police escort, hundreds of screaming kids at Van Zant Elementary School in Marlton, groups of flag-waving volunteers, and a massive flag brought in by Evesham Township fire rescue.

But none of it would be complete without the main the star of the show: Army Specialist Cody Wallace.

He thought he was coming in to teach kids about Memorial Day, but instead they surprised him with a huge welcome home celebration.

The special moment comes just days after he returned from his first deployment of serving nine months overseas.

"Feels good to be back with friends and family, but this is crazy. This is awesome," Wallace said.



Surprising soldiers this way is a tradition they follow at the school every Friday before Memorial Day.

"This principal gets it. He's teaching another generation of children that our brave men and women serving and their families too need to be appreciated," said David Silver, president and volunteer with Operation Yellow Ribbon.

During his welcome ceremony, many people took the time to thank Specialist Wallace for his service while also paying respect to the meaning of Memorial Day.

"It's not lost on us that this is a very special weekend, it's not for barbecues, not for going down the Jersey Shore, it's to memorialize our fallen," Silver said.

Camden County Commissioner Melinda Kane took part in honoring Wallace while remembering her son who was killed in the line of duty. She wants to also show appreciation for those who are now putting their lives on the line.

"To thank Specialist Wallace and all of the young men and women like him who serve our country proudly and bravely," Kane said.

Wallace's planned speech turned into a few short words of gratitude.

"I just want to thank everybody for coming out. I appreciate you guys and the support that you have for the military," Wallace said.

Wallace said this is a day he will always remember.

He's also asking that everyone take time to remember those who lost their lives serving our country.

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