Airman returns home to surprise mom for Christmas

Airman First Class Jayden Keilbart gave his mom, Annie Erker, a memorable Christmas this year, when he surprised her while she was at work on Friday, Dec. 20.

Keilbart spent three months coming up with a plan on how to surprise his mom. At the beginning of December, he began coordinating with his grandmother Linn Erker, and his mom’s boss Debbie Buhl, on the best way to surprise her while working at Safeway.

Erker was working a busy check stand when Keilbart bounded up the stairs from the parking garage and weaved through shoppers to surprise his mom.

The surprise was met with applause from onlooking shoppers, and cheers from other Safeway employees who were in on the secret.

Buhl gave Erker the rest of the day and the next two days off to spend time with her son, who will be home until Jan. 5.

Keilbart joined the United States Air Force shortly after graduating from North Kitsap High School in 2017 and has been away from home for nearly three years, missing important family moments, holidays and birthdays.

Keilbart is one of the hundreds of North Kitsap residents that have a Blue Star Banner lining Viking Way. During family celebrations such as birthdays and holidays, or even when she’s just driving by, Erker said she goes and takes a photo with Keilbart’s banner to let him know she’s thinking of him.

The Blue Star Banner Program was started by Lynette George in 2005, at the time George had two sons serving in the military. George was inspired by the patriotism she saw in a town in California and wanted to bring it to Kitsap. It has since spread to communities across the state.

Anni Erker celebrated her son’s 21st Birthday with a cake a balloon in front of his Blue-star along Viking Way (photo courtesy of Annie Erker)

Anni Erker celebrated her son’s 21st Birthday with a cake a balloon in front of his Blue-star along Viking Way (photo courtesy of Annie Erker)

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