Brother in Air Force Surprises Sibling at Barnegat Graduation

By ERIC ENGLUND | Jun 26, 2019
Photo by: Ryan Morrill

Barnegat — Dillon Balas got the surprise of his life at his Barnegat Township High School graduation on June 21.

Unbeknownst to him, older brother Rick, a 2017 Barnegat graduate now in the U.S. Air Force, was sitting behind the stage, out of view. Each graduate was called up to the stage by Principal Stephen Nichol. But when the younger Balas was summoned, Nichol announced that brother Rick would be giving him his diploma, and then he came out from behind to present it to his very happily surprised brother.

“It was unbelievable,” said Dillon. “I hadn’t seen him in more than a year.”

Pulling all the strings to make sure it all worked out was their mother, Tracey Balas.

“We’ve been working on this for months,” she said. “Rick was able to take a leave around this time, and then we had to put our plan in place.”

She said Rick flew into Newark Airport on June 17, and stayed with his grandparents in Edison.

“Then he spent the night with friends in Barnegat Thursday night,” said his mother. “By Friday, we were all set to go.”

She said Rick will be staying in town until July 15, when he returns to Aviano Air Force Base, located in Italy’s northeast region. He serves as an aerospace propulsion technician.

“I do a lot of work on helicopter engines,” he said. “With cars, you work with pistons and cylinders, but in this job, I work with jet components and other parts that are a little more complicated.”

Dillon’s graduation plans are to study business management at the University of Tampa.

“Graduation is always a special day, but this made it an absolutely awesome time,” he said.  —E.E.

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