As 11-year-old Damon Chiodo took to the stage at Carnegie Elementary School, his teachers and peers waited with anticipation to hear his heartwarming essay. Tasked with writing about his hero by his teacher, Cynthia Bevan, Damon proceeded to talk about his big brother who was stationed overseas in the army. However, following his moving speech, Damon was stunned into silence when he turned around to leave the stage.
Just minutes before, Damon – a sixth-grader – had been wide-eyed and smiling. He was sitting with his classmates in the audience in the school’s hall, preparing to share the story that was so close to his heart.
Like millions of others, the 11-year-old had a family member in the military. In this case, it was his older brother, Devin Tomei. He serves in the army as a helicopter mechanic.
Devin is stationed away from his Pittsburgh home in Germany. And despite the fact that the pair had spent over two and half years apart, Damon hadn’t forgotten the importance of Devin’s role in the army for a moment. In fact, he considered his older sibling to be his personal hero.
When Damon was asked to write on the subject of his hero for his arts language class, he naturally wrote about his brother. And such was the quality of his work that the boy won the school’s essay contest.
His prize was the opportunity to read his piece in front of his fellow students. And Friday, September 29, 2017, would turn out to be an extraordinary day for the youngster. He began, “Who is my hero? My hero is my brother.” He went on to explain the role that Devin played in the U.S. Army as a helicopter mechanic.
Devin is tasked with maintaining CH-47 Chinook helicopters. “Hundreds of army missions depend on these helicopters, and my brother must make sure that all of them are safe and ready to fly,” Damon said.
Although Devin is stationed thousands of miles from home in Germany, he still finds the time to speak with Damon. In fact, he plays the role of a big brother just as well as he does that of a helicopter mechanic. “My brother is brave and smart,” Damon continued. “He is always there for me, even if I just want to talk.”
With pride echoing in his voice, Damon concluded, “I am very proud of him for choosing to protect me and everyone in the United States. He is not just my brother. He is also my friend.”
Having finished, Damon prepared to leave the stage. He was greeted with a round of applause from his friends and teachers. That wasn’t all, though.
The 11-year-old turned around and saw an unexpected face. The ensuing second of silence was broken when the individual issued a simple greeting. “Hey, buddy!” he said.
After more than two years away from his family, Devin had finally returned to Pittsburgh. He had traveled all the way from Germany, via Baltimore, Maryland, to surprise his brother. Following an initial moment of stunned silence, Damon was ecstatic.
In fact, he leaped into the arms of his brother as the pair shared a loving embrace. He couldn’t believe what was happening. District spokeswoman Michale Herrmann recounted the scene to TribLive. “Damon screamed, jumped into his brother’s arms and then sobbed,” she said.
“He was so surprised,” she added. “He hasn’t seen his brother since third grade.” As the pair left the stage, Damon cried tears of joy. Damon was delighted at the most unexpected of surprises.
“He’s always been there for me in my entire life,” Damon told ABC News. “And no matter what, we’ve always been happy.” Like his little brother, Devin struggled to contain his joy at the reunion. However, he revealed that he had doubts as to whether the meeting would even happen.
“I’m just honored and this feels great,” Devin said backstage. “I didn’t think in a million years I’d be able to pull off something like this.” Having done so, the reunion of the two brothers will likely be remembered at Carnegie Elementary School for a long time to come.
Devin told ABC News, “I only have one brother, and he’s got me. And I love him to death.” Sadly, the reunion would be a brief one. Devin was scheduled to head to Fort Campbell, on the Kentucky-Tennessee border, just a month later. In the meantime, though, Damon’s dream day culminated with another unexpected surprise.
As the brothers stood together outside the assembly hall, Damon’s teachers revealed that he had been given the rest of the school day off so he could spend time with Devin. He would now get to spend even more precious hours with his big brother. “Thank you,” came his tearful reply.
Millions across America will be able to relate to the emotion shared by the brothers, while many will also have a family member stationed overseas. And those in the military are considered heroes by the people that they protect, whether at home or abroad.
For young Damon, though, his hero isn’t just a member of the armed services stationed on the other side of the world. His sibling takes time out from his busy schedule to play the equally important role of older brother – which makes this meeting at Carnegie Elementary School all the more special and heartwarming.