George Miaris couldn’t believe his eyes.
The seventh-grader was at a school assembly Thursday at West Babylon Junior High School when he saw his older brother for the first time in eight months, back from training with the Marine Corps.
“I didn’t have my glasses so at first I thought I must be tripping,” said Miaris, 13. “But when I saw him I thought it was really amazing to have my brother, a Marine, come into the school.”
Lance Cpl. Erik Banegas, who was training in Hawaii, came straight off a plane from Kennedy Airport on Thursday morning to surprise his brother at the school.
He hid behind a stand of bleachers with his mother, Idis Banegas, and when Principal Daniel McKeon counted down from three he walked in front of a cheering crowd of students. Holding his white cap, Banegas strode across the gym floor and embraced his elated younger brother.
“I was completely shocked,” Miaris said.
Before the reunion, Banegas, 20, said he hoped Miaris wouldn’t get too choked up in front of his classmates. He also hoped his younger brother wouldn’t be taller than him just yet.
At least one of his fears was confirmed: “In eight months, he definitely hit his growth spurt,” Banegas said, standing arm in arm with Miaris, who’s now about an inch taller than the Marine.
Miaris had told his family he always wanted to be part of a surprise homecoming. So when school administrators learned when Banegas was scheduled to come home they scrambled to arrange the reunion.
“George is an outstanding student and kid, and when we found out a way to put a smile on his face, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity,” McKeon said. “He puts a smile on our faces every day.”
The brothers are planning to spend their summer at the beach and maybe take a trip to Greece before Banegas returns to service next month.
“I’m so thankful to have my two sons here, and I can’t thank the school enough for this opportunity,” said Idis Banegas, 41.