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Marine Returns, Surprises Daughter

During halftime of Western Carolinas home mens basketball game against the Davidson Wildcats in the Liston B. Ramsey Regional Activity Center, current WCU student Simms Hicks was surprised by her father, Major Jimmy Hicks, of the United States Marine Corps., returning home from his deployment in Afghanistan.

Simms, who attended Thursday nights game with her mother, Dawn who was aware of the plan, was surprised during a special oncourt halftime presentation made to University Chancellor Dr. David Belcher. During intermission, she presented an American flag which flew over Camp Leatherneck at the Marine Air Control Group 28 forward compound which is located in the Hemland Province in southwest Afghanistan back on Thanksgiving Day. Her father, Major Hicks a 28year Marine veteran had sent the flag as a token of appreciation to WCU.

Following the presentation and subsequent photographs, the Public Address announcer in the Ramsey Center referenced that Paws Western Carolina athletics mascot had an additional special presentation for Simms. It was at that point that Major Hicks who had not seen his daughter since July 12, 2013 removed the helmet headgear of the mascot uniform to surprise Simms on his return stateside.

The initial plan was set into motion in early December when Major Hicks contacted Dr. Beth Tyson Lofquist, Acting Associate University Provost, who funneled the request along to Dr. Susan Fouts, WCUs Director of Continuing Education who also oversees the Military Student Services department. The reunion idea centered upon WCUs home mens basketball date with Davidson, at which the Athletic Department through Director of Athletics, Randy Eaton, and Associate Athletic Director for External Affairs, Chad Gerrety, got involved with fleshing out the scripting of the event.

Born in Beaufort, S.C., Simms is a graduate of Jacksonville High in Jacksonville, N.C., after spending one year studying abroad in Essen, Germany. Currently a sophomore at WCU, Simms is pursuing a doublemajor in psychology and international studies with a minor in leadership.


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