Central Michigan University graduate LaDyra Lyte, 23, received the surprise of her life along with her diploma Saturday. With help from the university, LaDaryl Lyte, 22, surprised his sister at her graduation ceremony, who he hadn’t seen in nearly one year due to his U.S. Army Reserve deployment. The heartwarming moment was captured on video and posted on the school’s Facebook page.
In the video, the school’s president, Robert O. Davies, is heard reading a letter LaDaryl wrote for his sister.
“I want you to tell my sister how proud I am, how gracious she is, how superlative she is, and I know that she is going to do amazing things in her life,” the letter read. “She is one in a million with a special talent of knowing just how to move forward.”
As Davies read the letter, LaDaryl is seen walking down an aisle in between graduates, behind his sister. Unsuspecting family members began to scream when they saw the young soldier creeping up on LaDyra.
Their mother and older sister only knew LaDaryl’s was coming.
“And the letter goes on and on and on, so let me do this, LaDyra, talk to him about it,” Davies said. LaDyra turned around and faced her brother with a look LaDaryl describes as her seeing “a ghost” on Good Morning America.
“For a moment, I thought I’m dreaming,” LaDyra told the publication. “I just felt just really overwhelmed, in a good way.”
She wasn’t the only one who embraced the U.S. Army Reserve soldier.
“I got like 10-feet away from my sister, and I heard my family start screaming, and then the whole crowd started screaming and clapping,” he said. “After that, it was kind of a blur because my adrenaline was rushing. I remember hugging her, and then one moment I’m standing there, and then the next moment I’m in the air, and I hear my dad’s voice.”
The video shows that their dad came up from behind LaDaryl to embrace him while lifting him off the ground despite having a bad knee, according to the Central Michigan University graduate.
The surprise happened after LaDaryl sent an email to school officials asking if there were any more tickets. The school replied and told him he could not only attend graduation but that the university president wanted to assist him in surprising his sister.
“They had me show up to graduation two hours early so they could hide me upstairs so my family wouldn’t see me,” LaDaryl said. “The night before, I couldn’t even sleep because I was nervous, so I was essentially up for like 36 hours to do this surprise.”
The 22-year-old told GMA that he missed his sister’s graduation in 2017 because he had to leave for basic training, and he refused to miss her college graduation. He surprised their mother the day he arrived by informing her of an upcoming package he was expecting. While hiding behind a bush, LaDaryl waited for his mother to go outside to retrieve the package. When she did, he jumped out, scaring the “living daylight” out of her.
LaDyra majored in fashion merchandising and design to become a fashion designer. The graduation gown she wore was one she designed herself and included the names of Black victims of gun violence, including Trayvon Martin and Breonna Taylor.