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Crater senior's military father surprises her at graduation

A Crater High School senior got more than a diploma at her graduation ceremony — she also got a surprise visit from her soldier dad.

As Paige Henderson walked to the stage on the high school's football field June 3 with her fellow classmates, her father, Sgt. Bill Henderson, stepped out of the crowd and planted a kiss on her cheek.

He had flown in unannounced from Georgia, where his Oregon National Guard unit is training for deployment to Iraq.

"It was a total surprise," said Lisa Rambo, Paige's mother and Henderson's ex-wife. "He was hiding behind my aunt and he popped out when she walked by. She (Paige) started crying."

Sgt. Henderson is an active duty member of the Oregon National Guard, usually working in the shop at the Medford armory. He is a member of the Guard's 1st Battalion of the 186th Infantry, headquartered in Ashland.

Paige, 18, lives in Central Point and plans to attend Rogue Community College. She hopes one day to be a history teacher.

Rambo said that Henderson got a four-day pass to travel from Georgia to Medford for the graduation.

"It was great," Rambo said of the surprise, "although Paige was a little mad at her dad because he made her cry."

Henderson's battalion is part of the Oregon Guard's Tigard-based 41st Infantry Combat Brigade Team, which is sending 2,800 troops from Oregon to Iraq. More than 600 of the soldiers are from the Ashland-based unit.

The brigade is training at Fort Stewart, Ga. and is expected to leave for Iraq in early July. They are scheduled to be there for at least 10 months, returning home in May 2010.

Crater High School graduate Paige Henderson gets a kiss on the cheek from her dad, Sgt. Bill Henderson of the Oregon National Guard, who flew in for the ceremony. Denise Baratta - Denise Baratta