NORMAN – Lori Curtis' daughters told her their dad would surprise them on Owen Field.
“Don't tell me that,” she told them, “because I don't think it can happen.”
Between the first and second quarters Saturday, as 1st Sgt. David Brian Curtis' family stood at midfield, ostensibly to accept an award for the deployed soldier, watching him deliver a taped message on the OU video screen, the Sooner Schooner burst onto the field.
With a certain soldier riding shotgun. Call it the Schooner's finest trip.
“I think I was in shock, until I saw his brother take off running,” Lori Curtis said. “Then it all became real. I still don't believe it happened.”
Curtis, who lives in Eufaula, is a decorated, 23-year member of the Army National Guard. He left for training last Feb. 4 and arrived in Afghanistan in April.
But OU, through Patriot Ford of Purcell, organized a reunion to celebrate Veteran's Day. Curtis was allowed to return a few weeks early. He arrived in Norman on Thursday and had to hole up in a hotel room until making his way to the stadium Saturday.
“I don't know if I really accepted it, until I walked down the tunnel to get on the Schooner,” Curtis said. “It was unbelievable. Tremendous honor.”
Riding the Schooner “was kind of a blur. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
After Curtis' video message, the screen flashed to the Schooner, with Curtis aboard. His family started sprinting toward him. He jumped off the wagon for a welcome that had 75,000 fans roaring.
Curtis doesn't return to Afghanistan but will have to report to Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, for several more weeks.
His family can live with that.
Said Curtis, “It was a great feeling. Not sure how to explain. I can't wipe the smile off of my face.”