Samantha "Sammy" Herbst got a military escort when she crossed the stage Tuesday night at San Manuel Amphitheater.


The Sultana High School valedictorian was accompanied by both her father, David, but also her brother Nicholas, or "Nikko," dressed in his tan Army fatigues.


"It's something I was hoping, I didn't think I would make it," said Nicholas. Only two weeks before, he had been based with the rest of his infantry unit in Kandahar Province in Afghanistan. Pft. Herbst had found out he would be able to make it home in time for his sister's graduation "maybe a couple of days" before it happened, following an 8-month tour in Afghanistan.


"It felt like a dream," said Nicholas, a 2008 Sultana graduate normally based out of Ft. Campbell in Kentucky.


"It meant a lot," said Samantha, "because they're both really important figures in my life."


Samantha will be heading to UCLA in the fall, where she'll study human biology.


"I want to be either a trauma surgeon or a general surgeon," she said


"It was one thing to have a valedictorian but to know that my son was going to be back ... When we found out that he was going to be home, we decided that he was going to" escort his sister across the stage, said David. "It meant more to have him do it. ... I'm proud of both my kids."


Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 760-956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com. Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/Hesperia.Star.