He'd fly home on leave during his deployment to Iraq with the 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, sneak into his town of Clatskanie, Ore., make his way to his daughter's first Varsity basketball game at the Clatskanie High School, and surprise her.
But the townsfolk of Clatskanie wouldn't have it.
Yesterday, as 15-year old Holly Burghardt made her way to basketball practice, she would pass signs in town reading, "Welcome Back Mike Burghardt!"
Friends at school asked her if she had seen the welcome home signs for her dad at Fultano's Pizza Parlor in downtown Clatskanie.
Evidently, you can't slip through the cracks in a small town--even to sneak home and surprise your daughter.
In spite of the whistle being blown on the surprise, the reunion went as planned. After hugs and some tears, Holly went on to score five points in the school's loss against Rainier High School.
The Oregon National Guard didn't even get wind of the plan until late yesterday. A fellow passenger sitting next to Mike Burghardt on the flight to Portland, struck up a conversation, which led to a phone call to the Oregon National Guard's Public Affairs Office.
The media was notified late last evening, with the warning, "Don't say anything... it's a surprise." The local newspaper in Clatskanie and the high school were in on the plan.
Regardless, well-intentioned friends of the Burghardts put up the welcome home signs anyway.
"That's the beauty of small towns," said Capt. Stephen Bomar, Public Affairs Officer for the Oregon National Guard. "Everyone in town is your friend."
Indeed, when calls went out to Mr. Jeff Boffman, principal of Clatskanie High School to coordinate the media visit, he said he knew Mike and the entire Burghardt family. So did the editor of the local newspaper.
If the Burghardt family lived in a larger city like Portland, he may have been able to pull off his surprise. But the principal at his daughter's school--or the editor of the local newspaper, or the owner of the local pizza parlor, may not have known who he was, or that he was even in the Oregon National Guard.
As surprises go, yesterday's attempt may not have materialized as Mike Burghardt originally envisioned. But hopefully, he came to realize the members of his family include everyone in the small town of Clatskanie.
And that should come as no surprise to anyone.
You can read more about this story in The Daily News article here.
Posted by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy,
Oregon National Guard Social Media Manager