Six-year-old Morgan Richards has grown accustomed to long periods of separation from her father, Brandon, who serves in the U.S. Navy. Brandon spends a great deal of time on deployment. Little did Morgan know that her dad had just returned from a 6-month post in the Pacific, but rather than return home without fanfare, he and his wife cooked up a wonderful surprise.
Brandon’s most recent trip marked the third lengthy separation from his wife and children.
Morgan’s mom, Elizabeth, scoured the internet for the perfect costume before inviting her daughter to dress up as Belle from the Disney film Beauty and the Beast. “I saw the Beast costume,” Elizabeth said, speaking to Inside Edition, “and it was a done deal from there.”
Fulfilling every 6-year-old girl’s fantasy, Morgan obliged, and a “stage” was set up for her to meet the Beast and dance a special dance in front of family, friends, and (of course) a camera.
Buzzing with excitement while dancing to the film’s iconic soundtrack Tale As Old As Time, Morgan stepped back as her dad lifted his mask to reveal his face. The perfectly timed reveal was accompanied by the most fitting lyrics: “Ever just the same, ever a surprise.”
Morgan realized it was her father with a cry of “Daddy!” and the look on her face was worth every second of her parents’ diligent preparation.
But it took her a moment. “I thought he was the real Beast!” Morgan later revealed to Inside Edition.
Brandon and Elizabeth’s 3-year-old son, Jax, was up next. Oblivious to the surreptitious scheming of his joyful parents, the little boy was taken to his favorite store to choose a donut, but there was an even sweeter surprise waiting for him: his dad! Jax, emulating the enthusiasm of his older sister, threw his arms around his long-missed father in delight.
“We forgot all about his donut!” Elizabeth shared, after the surprise. “We left without a donut!”
The happily reunited parents, far from feeling victims of circumstance, always make the most of Brandon’s visits home after long periods of deployment. “Whatever the case is, you can’t really bank on when they’re coming home,” Elizabeth said. “The timing always changes, the date changes. So really, the element of surprise always has to be there … I just want to make it extra special each time for them.”
And for Brandon, who spends so much time away from his young family, the making of special moments is even more imperative. “It’s just a surreal feeling,” he shared. “To do something that they can remember like this is awesome … Just to have that experience, it means a lot.”
Clearly, it means a lot to 6-year-old Morgan and her little brother, too. It takes a huge and welcome distraction for a child to leave a donut behind!