Chaska, Minnesota | 22 September, 2021 | (952) 448-2650
More Weather
Attention shoppers
by Karla Wennerstrom
Feb 19, 2012 | 3169 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Kelly hugs her dad, John Collins, after surprising him at the store.
Kelly hugs her dad, John Collins, after surprising him at the store.
Army Pfc. Kelly Collins stood outside the Eden Prairie Menards store on Feb. 2. She was nervous.

Her grandparents, Dave and Priscilla Cassin of Edina, had just picked her up from the airport.

“I have been in Afghanistan since June,” Kelly said.

The mission that night? Surprising her father, John Collins, who works at the store, with her homecoming.

“It’s been very hard keeping it a secret,” Priscilla said.

Kelly’s route that day took her through Kuwait and Germany. She left Atlanta at 2:55 p.m., arriving in Minneapolis at 4:43 p.m.

“It was a long flight,” Kelly said.


Kelly said it feels “really weird” to be back, looking around at the buildings and roads. She said it is strange to see so many Americans and hear people speaking English.

“It’s so weird.

“People don’t know what’s going on over there,” Kelly said.

“It was a very good experience,” Kelly said. “It was a big eye opener.”

The U.S. military has been in Afghanistan since 2001.

Kelly is with the 3rd Battalion of the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade in aviation.

She has been in the Army for three years. This is her first deployment overseas, she said, and she participated in several missions.

The Chaska High School graduate said she tried a few colleges before deciding to join the Army.

“My grandpa was a pilot in World War II,” she said. “That’s why I got into Army aviation.”

She also liked being able to choose her job, now working as an aviation operations specialist.

She said she oversees flights, radioing pilots, tracking flights and keeping in constant communication.

“I’m pretty much the coordinator behind all the Medevacs,” she said.

She is in Minnesota for a few weeks for mid-tour leave, then heads back to Afghanistan. She expects to be back at Fort Hood, where she is stationed, by May or June.


After sunset, the group, including Kelly’s mom, Jayne, gathered outside the store excitedly.

John works part-time at Menards, but wasn’t on duty that day. A friend picked him up for some “shopping.”

“She’s diverting him over there,” Kelly said earlier in the day.

Kelly had talked with the store’s manager to plan the surprise. She also hoped to surprise her mom too (she works in Chaska), but had to tell her she was coming.

Kelly rehearsed her announcement a few times, taking the walkie-talkie from an employee of the store.

“John Collins, John Collins. This is your daughter Kelly. I’ve been serving in Afghanistan for the last eight months. Surprise Dad, I’m home. Come up front.”

She looked around to see if she could see her dad, who was also wearing camouflage.

When she did, she broke into a run and ran into a hug.

Was he surprised? “Absolutely,” said John, although, “I had an inkling something was up.”

So, now that she’s home, what does she want to do first?

First, “surprise Dad,” she said. “Tomorrow we’re going to go buy a Jeep.” (She actually went with a Kia Sorrento.)

What has she missed the most?

“I miss my Mom’s cooking,” she said.

“She missed her dog too,” John said.

Kelly added, “I’m just excited to sleep in my own bed.”
Comments-icon Post a Comment
No Comments Yet
Stay Connected Facebook Twitter RSS Email Minnesota Business Directory Edible Communities Local Jobs Garage Sales ThriftMart Events Calendar Ending Image