Soldier surprises mom at her nursing school graduation after yearlong deployment

A soldier who spent the past year deployed in Iraq and Kuwait flew home to Minnesota in time to surprise his mom at her nursing school graduation.

“My heart kind of leapt out of my chest,” Margaret Pearson, 50, told ABC News of the surprise. “I don’t even know what the word is [to describe the emotion]. A million emotions wrapped into one.”

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Margaret Pearson, of North Mankato, Minnesota, thought her son, Army Sgt. Dustin Pearson, 29, was still in Fort Bliss, Texas, where he returned after his yearlong deployment.

“He told me that he had some hearing problems and he had to see a doctor in Texas before he could come home and he wouldn’t be home until this weekend,” she said. “I was very disappointed because my entire family was going to be there except him.”

Margaret Pearson, also the mother of twin daughters, went to nursing school when Dustin Pearson was a baby. She stopped short of getting her RN degree at that time due to being a working mom.

With her son's encouragement, she went back to nursing school 25 years later.

“Every time I seemed to have a breakdown or something over school I’d call him,” said Margaret Pearson, who worked full-time as an LPN while going to school. “A year is a long time, especially when you’re going through school like that.”

Dustin Pearson had the idea to surprise his mom at her graduation Wednesday. He called his dad and Margaret Pearson’s husband, Kurt, to see if he could take over from him the honor of pinning Pearson at the ceremony.

He then called Rasmussen College in Mankato last week to arrange the surprise.

“We had to change up our program a little bit to make it work,” said Cheryl Pratt, dean of nursing at Rasmussen College-Mankato. “[Pearson] would just get teary-eyed talking about her son not being able to be there and of course we knew differently.”

Margaret Pearson said she still has not stopped smiling from the surprise. Dustin Pearson is home for the foreseeable future, reconnecting with his family and his own young son.

“My 50th birthday came and went, Christmas came and went, his son’s first birthday came and went, you can’t really make up for those,” Margaret Pearson said of the milestones her son missed while overseas. “But we can make the most out of what we have now.”

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