Today Show reunites Soldier, deployed father during interview
October 4, 2012
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Pvt. Victoria Piccoli, 2nd Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment, was invited to take part in a live segment of the "Today" show titled "Young Americans Answering the Call of Duty" last Sunday. It was supposed to be a short segment on the show, a few minutes devoted to the goals of a young Soldier preparing to graduate from Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson. But, within moments of her interview with reporter Lester Holt via satellite in Kabul, Afghanistan, she got the shock of her life.
The interview quickly turned into a surprise conversation with her father as he stepped into the frame to stand next to the Holt.
The New Orleans native graduates from BCT today, but did not expect to see her father until long after graduation ceremonies. Marine Lt. Col Francis Piccoli is deployed in Afghanistan, his third combat mission since taking part in Operation Desert Storm more than 20 years ago.
She was at a loss for words for most of the interview. "I graduated," she told him as she fought back tears.
"I am incredibly proud of your generation, and you are a perfect example of the generation of Americans that came up behind us," Francis Piccoli told her. "When I retire, I know our defense is well taken care of. So good job, sweetheart. Excuse me -- Soldier."
Sunday morning's effort took more than 30 people in three cities and two counties to organize, said Lori Daniel, producer for NBC News.
"There's twice the amount of crew people in Afghanistan than here at Fort Jackson," Daniel said. "They have satellite provisions just like we do, several producers, crew members and audio people. And then, of course, all of the people the military provides, as well."
"I had no clue," said Pvt. Jaclyn Onuschak, Piccoli's battle buddy, who was present for the interview. "I thought it was outstanding that they would do that for her. She was definitely surprised and definitely appreciated it. My mouth just dropped. I immediately started crying."
Because of his deployment in Afghanistan, Piccoli said she was worried she would not get to speak to her father before graduation.
"I'm overwhelmed with happiness," Piccoli said. "I even got to talk to my father on the telephone afterwards. I am so proud of my dad, and I am so proud of myself. I made it and I'm here to serve."
NBC wanted to broadcast the surprise interview as a way to keep Americans involved in ongoing overseas conflicts, Daniel said.
"These wars have been going on for so long that, sometimes, they become second nature," she said. "We have to remember the people there fighting for our freedoms. I think NBC put their money where their mouth is in terms of making sure (the war) stays in the consciousness of the United States."