NORTH AURORA – A rear dining area at The Turf Room in North Aurora was packed with well-wishers Saturday as friends and family waited to surprise U.S. Army Reserve Capt. Robert Mikyska, of North Aurora, just home from Afghanistan on Dec. 7.
As he walked in, they yelled "Surprise!" And from the look on his face, indeed it was.
Restaurant owner Jody Blair said as a good friend of Mikyska's wife, Sarah Spang, she wanted to acknowledge Mikyska's service and celebrate his safe homecoming after nine months in Afghanistan. He served in the 416th Theater Engineering Command.
"I care about the both of them," Blair said. "We worried about him the last nine months. It was very important for us to welcome him home."
Spang said she was grateful to friends and family who came out to support them and honor her husband's service.
"I am thrilled that he is home safe," Spang said. "I prayed that he would come home safe to us. This is the best Christmas present I could get."
Mikyska received the well-wishers with smiles and hugs.
"It's great to be home and this is a wonderful surprise," Mikyska said. "After nine months straight of being in Afghanistan in some very arduous conditions, it's really nice to be home – a real relief to be home."
Mikyska said his wife told him they were going to have photos taken, but they had to make a quick stop at The Turf Room, first.
"So we got here and I saw my friend's car here and I thought something might be up," Mikyska said.
But he had no idea about 50 people would be waiting for him with more streaming in during the afternoon.
Mikyska said he has a month off to recuperate and then will go to work in his civilian job for the army as a security specialist for the theater engineer command in Darian.
His friends Jeff Becker of Plano and Dave O'Leary of Peotone were glad to be there to welcome Mikyska home.
"I think he deserves it," Becker said. "Rob's a good guy, a good officer in the military."
"We were all praying for him to come home safely and it's good to see him walk in the door and knowing he's OK," added O'Leary.
Mikyska's mother-in-law, Katherine Spang of Elgin Township, said the celebration was just the thing.
"We are delighted to have Robert home," Spang said. "It was a long nine months waiting for him to come home safely. When his boots hit the ground in Illinois, we were very grateful."
The soldier's mother, Maureen Mikyska of Marengo, added it was a relief to have her son home safe.
"This is really great," she said of the celebration. "They did a fantastic job."