Service members often call themselves family. That term of endearment reflects the feelings and familial bond they share, but for some, like Charleston’s Rouse family, the term is also literal. They are a family with a long tradition and legacy of service to each other and their country.
"Whether you're in the military family or part of the Rouse family," said Colonel Rodney Honeycutt, the guest speaker at Army 1st Sgt. Tyris Rouse's retirement ceremony, “seeing a family member come home for the first time will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.”
For Evelyn Rouse, the mother of Tyris, the September retirement ceremony honored her son's 20 years of military service. Little did she know, her son was about to give her the surprise of a lifetime during the ceremony by bringing home his brother, Air Force Tech. Sgt. Eldridge Rouse, who is stationed in England and had not seen his family for the past year and a half.
"My brother told me he was about to retire and asked me if there was any way I could make it home," said Eldridge. "I talked to my leadership, and they were supportive about sending me home in time to surprise our family."
The ceremony opened up with Honeycutt saying a few words about Tyris and his many accomplishments earned throughout his military career. After summarizing Tyris' 20-year career, Honeycutt led the audience with a trivia game as an icebreaker.
"I need everyone to face the rear of the room," said Honeycutt. "If you know the answer to my question, turn around and answer the question."
He kicked off the trivia with a couple of general questions.
"What is the first letter of the alphabet," asked Honeycutt. The Rouse children quickly turned around and yelled, "A!"
After asking a couple more questions in regards to Army Central, Honeycutt prepared to ask the final trivia question.
"Last question," said Honeycutt as he watched Eldridge sneak to the front of the room. "What branch of service does the youngest Rouse brother serve in?"
All the members of the Rouse family turned around to see Eldridge standing there wearing his Air Force dress blue uniform. Evelyn froze in astonishment and gasped at the sight of seeing Eldridge for the first time in a while. Eldridge's two daughters rushed over to him without hesitation and welcomed him home with a huge hug.
"It was overwhelming and very emotional," said Evelyn. "It was amazing and unbelievable to have both of my sons standing together side by side."
After the completion of Tyris' retirement ceremony, the family also witnessed Eldridge’s promotion to E-6.
"My brother [Tyris] has such a phenomenal impact in my life," said Eldridge, who has been in the service for 11 years. "He was one of the many males in our family to join the military and serve this country."
Tyris left for the Army when Eldridge was only in sixth grade. Eldridge was able to see his brother achieve every rank pinned on Tyris through the years.
"This was a rare opportunity," said Tyris. "I wanted Eldridge to be at my retirement ceremony, and I wanted to bring my family together for something good."
With both brothers finally being home at the same time, they said they have lots of catching up and bonding to do before Eldridge returns to England.
"For the next couple of days, we'll be heading up to the mountains to spend some quality time with each other," said Eldridge.
Tyris said," Despite the branch of service, deployments and being stationed in faraway locations are almost guaranteed to happen, it just feels good to know that I have a loving family and the military supported my brother and I with my final request."