It’s an image that never gets old: a soldier surprising a loved one.

Such was the case Friday when U.S. Army Pvt. Kaitlyn Shulman made an appearance at her little sister Kristina Meadows’ school in Mechanicsville.

“I decided to surprise my little sister at school because she couldn’t make my graduation," which was a day earlier, Shulman said. “I knew she wanted to see me, and I honestly didn’t know if I would’ve had time before leaving for [Advanced Individual Training] if I had waited until after she got out of school.”

Kristina was surrounded by friends on the soccer fields at Stonewall Jackson Middle School when Shulman approached them.

While emotion-filled, the reunion was brief as Shulman had to leave at 7 p.m. for AIT, the next step in her military career.

Shulman was aware that her time with friends and family would be limited to a few precious hours, but she also knew how important and special the visit with her sister would be.

Before departing Friday evening, the 20-year-old said joining the Army “was the best life decision. It may seem hard at first, but — once you get used to doing some of the same things everyday — it becomes easier.”

She offered this advice to anyone considering joining the military: “Do it! Never give up!”

“Being away from home was hard,” she said, “but at the end of the day I knew I had so much love and support.”

With enthusiasm, Shulman said: “My journey as a soldier has just started, and I am so proud to say that I am an American soldier!”

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