3-year-old Tanner (left) sitting next to his sister Lindsey (center) after their dad surprised her.
Staff Sergeant Jon Owens
Melanie Owens smiled as her daughter and husband were reunited.
Sue Ellen Langley
SONORA, KY (WAVE) - A reunion of family members separated by time and distance is hard to beat, especially when it's between an elementary school student and her soldier father. In a Hardin County elementary school in Sonora Wednesday, a dad pulled off such a surprise.
Staff Sergeant Jon Owens was part of a group of 1st infantry, 3rd brigade combat team soldiers who returned to Fort Knox at about 10:30 Tuesday night, far too late for 6-year-old Lindsey and her 3-year-old brother Tanner to be up and out. Plus, Lindsey's father wanted to make this reunion special for his daughter and there wasn't a dry eye in the house as he pulled off the surprise in the school lunchroom.
Lindsey is six, so the littlest things can seem like a major milestone.
"Her biggest thing today is she has a tooth she's about to lose," said Lindsey's Creekside Elementary School first grade teacher Sue Ellen Langley.
She had no idea something even bigger was about to happen.
"She's a daddy's girl through and through so when I'm gone, I talk to her all the time on the phone," her dad, Jon said. "We Skype as much as possible. She tells you that she misses you, she can't wait to see you."
Her mom, Melanie, said Jon may not even know exactly how much his fourth deployment impacted Lindsey, "Because of the fact that she's older and she knows he's gone, she knows where he's at, she knows what he's doing, she knows that something could happen. So she brings it up all the time, ‘I miss him, I worry about him, I want him to come play with me.'"
Langley said the first grader asked Santa on a field trip to bring her dad home.
"She thought he'd be home by Christmas and that didn't happen and she just kind of picked it up and held her chin up high," Langley said.
So when he got home they were determined to make it special, a surprise reunion. Langley told her students they were being recognized for their manners to explain the television cameras grouped in the lunch room. She told Lindsey and her friends they got to sit at a special table as a reward for behavior, but really, it was so her back would be to her dad when he walked in and said hello.
At first, Lindsey did a double take, and then began to answer her dad's questions about her lunch, before launching herself into his arms and starting to cry.
"I love you kiddo," Jon said. "Love you. I told you I'd come home."
Lindsey got to end one of her best days at school by leaving with her father to do the things dads and daughters get to do when they are not 7,000 miles apart.
Lindsey said she slept with her daddy doll -- often given to military children during deployments -- every night. She said, "It would make me cheer up."
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