Home for the Holidays: Hunter Shreiner, back from the Army, surprises his family prior to Warwick’s wrestling match

By on January 2, 2019
Warwick junior Haydn Shreiner gives a big hug to his brother, Hunter, who surprised him prior to the Warriors’ wrestling match on Dec. 20 by coming home from the U.S. Army for the holidays. Photo by Matthew Libhart

Warwick junior Haydn Shreiner gives a big hug to his brother, Hunter, who surprised him prior to the Warriors’ wrestling match on Dec. 20 by coming home from the U.S. Army for the holidays. Photo by Matthew Libhart

Hunter Shreiner admitted he was a little “jumpy.”

For two months, he and his mother, Robin, had been working on a surprise for their family.

And just five days before Christmas, they pulled it off, as Hunter, a 2018 Manheim Central High School graduate, returned home from the U.S. Army for the holidays.

With his brother, Haydn, competing as a junior wrestler at Warwick, the Warriors’ match against Conestoga Valley offered the perfect opportunity.

Prior to the match on Dec. 20, when Haydn and Buckskin grappler Taylor Sheaffer were introduced as the 152-pound combatants and walked toward each other to shake hands, Hunter — who was hiding behind a row of CV wrestlers — also came onto the mat and gave his brother a big embrace.

“I was worried that they would see me before I went out on the mat,” Hunter said.

Haydn didn’t. Nor did his father, Tim.

The surprise was executed perfectly.

“I was so confused what was going on, and I realized who it was and I was just so happy,” Haydn said. “I hadn’t seen him in awhile and it was just amazing.”

“I saw the camo coming out on the mat,” said Tim, who was seated nearby in the front row, “and I was like, ‘Oh my God, that’s Hunter. That’s my son.’ I almost ran out on the mat and tackled him. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it.”

It was the first time Hunter’s family had seen him since he departed in June for Army boot camp at Fort Jackson in Columbia, S.C. From there, Hunter moved on to Fort Lee in Prince George County, Va. to begin his schooling and wasn’t able to be home for Thanksgiving.

“All the first timers, it seems like they keep them there over Thanksgiving and they serve all the higher ups,” Robin said.

As far as Tim knew, Hunter wasn’t going to be home for Christmas and New Year’s either.

“Everyone was asking me, ‘Is he coming home for Christmas?,’” Tim recalled, “and I said, ‘I don’t think so.’”

In fact, just to throw his father a curve ball, Hunter messaged him a few hours before boarding his train.

“I told him I couldn’t come home because I was still in training,” Hunter said.

“He texted me this morning, ‘I love you, dad,’” Tim said. “And I was like, ‘I love you, too. Proud of ya.’ I definitely didn’t know.”

In an emotional moment prior to Warwick’s wrestling match against Conestoga Valley on Dec. 20, Tim Shreiner (far right) and his mother, Loraine, greet Tim’s son Hunter (center), who made a surprise return home from the U.S. Army. Photo by Matthew Libhart

In an emotional moment prior to Warwick’s wrestling match against Conestoga Valley on Dec. 20, Tim Shreiner (far right) and his mother, Loraine, greet Tim’s son Hunter (center), who made a surprise return home from the U.S. Army. Photo by Matthew Libhart

Robin, though, had the inside scoop. Although it wasn’t clear right away what the date would be that Hunter would get back to Lititz, she learned in October that he’d be home for Christmas.

“I bug him. He can’t get it by me,” Robin laughed.

During one of their first conversations, Hunter told his mom that he wanted his return to be a surprise for the rest of the family and friends.

“It was hard to keep it quiet that he was coming in because everyone kept asking,” Robin remarked. “When we got the dates, it was like, OK, we started working it out.”

Hunter got a train ticket to arrive in Lancaster at 6 p.m., which allowed him and his mother just enough time to get back to Warwick High School. She had talked about their plans with Warrior assistant coach Ian Stoeckl, who then got the OK from Conestoga Valley’s coaches.

“I was like, ‘Haydn’s got a match at 7 p.m. Let’s see if we can pull something off,’” Robin said, “and it worked out really well.”

Nobody could argue that.

“(Dad) was crying like a baby,” Hunter said.

Haydn admitted that having his brother home provided extra motivation for his match against Sheaffer, but added that it wasn’t easy to concentrate on the task at hand.

Haydn battled tough, but suffered a 13-7 loss.

“I wasn’t even focusing on the match, even when I was walking out,” Haydn said. “I was like, ‘Holy crap, Hunter’s home.’”

The Shreiners’ first order of business after leaving the wrestling match was to get Hunter reunited with his dog, Roxi, a Boxer Lab mix.

Beyond that, Hunter had only one other request.

“He wants food. Real food. Chicken pot pie and steak … all the good stuff,” Robin said. “We’re just going to hang out with family as much as possible and let him do what he wants to do.”

“I just love coming back home after learning how to perform my duty as a United States soldier,” Hunter said. “I feel proud to serve and it’s great. I love the discipline, all of it. It’s just great.”

Clearly, it was a great Christmas gift for the family to have Hunter back under the Shreiner roof.

“It will be awesome,” Robin said. “Just to hear him and how he’s changed. He’s grown up a lot, so it’s pretty neat. I want to hear all the stories of what goes on, so I think that will be neat.”

Hunter will be home until Jan. 3, at which point he will return to Fort Lee to complete his training. Then after graduation in February, he will be assigned to Fort Lewis, located south-west of Tacoma, Wash.

First, however, there was quality time to be spent with family and friends — and of course, stories to tell about a successful surprise.

“I love seeng the reactions of my family,” Hunter smiled. “It was great.”

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One Comment

  1. Anthony Styer

    January 3, 2019 at 2:11 pm

    Great pictures and an excellent article Bruce. Thank you for posting this. Semper Fi, Anthony Styer Major, USMC (Retired) and also Hunter’s Uncle

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