Cameron Van Vooren got a surprise visit from his mother, Lori Clark, a U.S. Army Major who was granted leave from South Korea. (Photo by Eric Stock/WJBC)
By Eric Stock
NORMAL - Many parents were proud to see their children get their college degree this weekend, but a Central Illinois mom traveled across the globe to show her pride.
U.S. Army Major Lori Clark of Bartonville is on her second tour of duty in South Korea. She hadn't seen her son and only child, Cameron Van Vooren, since last Fourth of July. She arranged to come home for a 10-day leave and make a surprise visit to see Cameron get his diploma.
Clark was introduced by ISU's Department of Technology Chairman Rick Boser during the department's pre-graduation reception at Turner Hall. They had a long and tearful embrace as a room full of onlookers applauded.
"The motivation behind it is just being his mom. That's really what it boils down to. This is the reason I do everything I do, day in and day out," Clark said.
Clark had originally planned to see her son's graduation via a video teleconference, but after it couldn't be arranged, she requested a 10-day leave, even as tensions in North Korea were rising.
"I said (to my supervisors), he's my only kid, I can't miss it," Clark said.
Cameron was surprised but grateful.
"I kind of had an idea because I knew she wasn't going to miss my graduation because she said it for four years now, but it did catch me off guard," Van Vooren said.
Cameron said he has had a lot of support at ISU while he was in school and his mother in South Korea.
"I had a great group of friends down here. I pride them as much as anyone else on helping me through this four years because I needed all the help I could get," Van Vooren said.
Clark enlisted in the Army in 1994 as a single parent. Her spouse, Bryon Clark, is a field artillery technician also stationed in South Korea. She will be transferred to the Fort Hood Army Base in Fort Hood, Texas to work in the Warrior Transition Unit.
Cameron graduated with a degree in engineering technology and is looking for a job in engineering.
Eric Stock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.