Army Sgt. Terrence Hinton died in a vehicle accident in 2017 while stationed in Hawaii, leaving behind his wife and five-year-old daughter, Cayleigh. Local news at the time said that Terrence “adored” his daughter and that she was the “love of his life.”
So when Cayleigh’s school announced an upcoming father-daughter dance, the five-year-old had no one to take her and dance with her.
Cayleigh’s mother, Jillian Hinton, put out a request asking if any members of the Illinois National Guard would be willing to take her daughter to the dance in Terrence’s place. That request was quickly answered by 1st Sgt. Joseph Bierbrodt of the Illinois Army National Guard.
Bierbrodt, a father of four, had never met the Hintons before. That wasn’t an issue, however, as soldiers are “brothers” with the same ties of loyalty as blood relatives.
“I just thought about my daughters and it was something that really touched me,” Bierbrodt told TODAY. “I thought, ‘This girl’s got to have somebody go with her.'”
To make it a completely proper occasion, Beirbrodt showed up in a limousine with flowers and a stuffed dog wearing camouflage that he got for his own daughters years earlier.
Wearing his dress uniform, Bierbrodt escorted Cayleigh to the father-daughter dance and the two spent the evening dancing together and having fun. And while the Guardsman may have been sharply dressed, he was completely out-shined by five-year-old Cayleigh in a formal dress.
“It’s like she’s literally turned into Cinderella,” Jillian told TODAY. “The only difference is midnight has come and gone and she’s still the belle of the ball. It has honestly been a game-changer.”
Sgt. Terrence Hinton, a native of Grand Rapids, Michigan, served two tours of duty in Afghanistan and Kuwait. In 2017 he was stationed in Hawaii when he was tragically killed during a training exercise when the vehicle he was in overturned.
“I consider it a huge honor to be able to do this,” Bierbrodt said of taking Cayleigh to the father-daughter dance. “We never forget the ones who have left, or leave their families unattended.”
Five-year-old Cayleigh said, “It’s a very special day because we’re celebrating my dad. He was a very, very, very special dad to me, and he was a good soldier,” according to the Chicago Tribune.
“I’ll be honest, it was bittersweet for me without Terrence here,” said Cayleigh’s mother. “However, watching her eyes light up when she saw the limo and got the flowers, my heart was just overflowing with joy. I just sat there and watched them twirl around, and I was in another place.”
1st Sgt. Joseph Bierbrodt wasn’t the only person to answer the call to honor the memory of fallen soldier Terrence Hinton. Police officers, firefighters and members of the Patriot guard also showed up for the special evening. They provided the limousine with an escort to the school and danced with Cayleigh as well.
Watch this inspirational and emotional story in the video below!