Soldier surprises mom at county fair after serving in Kuwait


GOSHEN — For two weeks, a conspiracy existed to surprise one woman at the Elkhart County 4-H Fair Saturday night before the Daughtry concert.

Samantha Corner’s 23-year-old son, Army Pfc. Mason Corner, his brother and twin sister, along with Operation Support Troops, Shadow Entertainment Midwest, American Legion Riders and fair officials set an operation into place to have Mason surprise his mom on the stage of the Elkhart County 4-H Fair grandstand.

Mason joined the Army last year and was sent to Kuwait for his first deployment as a petroleum supply specialist. Originally, he was scheduled for a three-week furlough Aug. 1. But “they bumped it up a bit,” Mason said from behind the grandstands, among the jumble of vehicles and people preparing for the Daughtry concert.

“It just happened to be on the date I was coming home,” Corner said of why he was doing the surprise at the Daughtry concert. “And I wanted to see the Daughtry concert originally before I left. So when I found out they were coming, I was going to buy the tickets anyways, so this kind of worked out.”

Daughtry has a song titled “Home” that is special to Corner. “My senior year in high school (2013), I moved from Kansas to back here, and like this is my original home. I listened to that song every minute from Kansas until I got off the bus in Columbia City.”

So to surprise his mom and get to see Daughtry while on leave was a bonus for Mason.

“As far as I know, she has no clue,” he said of his mom. Although they talk on the phone every other week, it’s been seven or eight months since he’s seen her in person. “I’m just ready to do it and get it done and over with honestly. I don’t know if she’ll be mad at me or happy to see me,” he said grinning.

Although a constant rain had set in, track seat ticket holders made their way along the muddy track to sit in wet chairs. Among them was Samantha with her children. The row ahead of them was festooned with balloons.

Grandstand announcer Tim Yoder made several presentations, including the introduction of several members of the Indiana National Guard, before saying, “Time to time our military has to serve and they may be gone for a year, maybe two years, and tonight I am honored and just thrilled to introduce you to a gentleman who just flew in from Texas to surprise his mother — Pfc. Mason Corner!”

The crowd cheered and Samantha hurried out of her seat toward her son, who walked down the grandstand stairs to embrace her.

Mason then went to hug other family members, including his older brother, Tony VanKirk, who helped set up the surprise. Samantha, who lives in North Webster, said she was clueless about the surprise but was happy to have her son home. She was going to make sure he had some home cooking.

“OST helped out a lot,” Mason said. “They are the ones who had the connections with the Elkhart County Fair.”

Ken Mounsey operates OST. He along with Anita Hogan and Tanner Blackburn of Operation Support Troops and Josh Trowbridge of Shadow Entertainment Midwest were on hand for the surprise. American Legion Riders, Millersburg Post, also participated.

Mounsey explained with an excited smile, “I got a phone call from Mason’s brother Tony, and he asked us to help out. And OST is Operation Support Troops, and I’m all about that. I reached out to Shadow Entertainment Midwest and together we all came up with this, with the Elkhart County Fair.”

Sheila Selman is regional editor/digital content editor for The Goshen News. Contact her at Sheila.selman@goshennews.com or follow her on Twitter at @sselman_TGN or on her Facebook page Sheila Selman Journalist.

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