A number of military children have to grow up without their mothers or fathers in their lives on a regular basis, due to deployments and remote stations.
That’s the case for middle schooler Haley Webb.
Her father is combat medic Sergeant First Class Jason Michael Webb, who spent the last 15 years in military service (and spent much of that time serving overseas). He missed a number of big moments in her life, including her actual birth—and for over the last year and a half, she’s only gotten the chance to communicate with him through letters, emails, and phone calls. He’s been deployed for going on two years now, leaving Haley and her mother in Independence, Missouri, to wait for him to come home.
This Veteran’s Day, though, Haley was given a big surprise.
At her school’s Veteran’s Day assembly, the young teenager performed with the band, then got up on stage to make an introduction. Her school, Bingham Middle School, had selected her to present the intro without her exactly knowing why—although she’ll figure out rather quickly.
She starts reading the scripted intro, a biography of the school’s special guest, with no idea who’s going to be coming out—but as she gets farther into her speech, she starts to realize exactly who the school is about to present.
Webb told Fox News Channel 4 that Haley had made plenty of sacrifices of her own. Although she, herself, isn’t the one out serving her country, she’s had to spend a huge chunk of her childhood waiting for her father to come home; he admitted that for roughly the first six years of her life, he was deployed to Iraq with his unit. She wasn’t able to hug her dad good night during her early years, growing up with only brief reunions here and there.
This one, he hoped, would top all of the rest. Her lack of awareness that he’s already home should give her the surprise he believes she so strongly deserves.
“She’s seen all the YouTube videos,” he joked, “Of surprise reunions.”
“I think it’s going to be pretty special.”
He waited until his daughter realized exactly who she was describing in her introduction, then walked up to the front of the gym with a big smile.
The reaction is heartwarming; although Haley had been struggling to hold back tears while she read her own father’s biography to her classmates, parents, and teachers, nothing quite compares to her reaction when she looks up and sees who’s walking towards her.
“Are you surprised?” he asked her, hugging her closely as she cries happy tears into his uniform.
The smile on her face as she breaks their embrace is priceless; no matter how many surprise reunions are planned for military families, they never quite seem to get old.
“About halfway through,” Haley admitted, she was pretty sure she knew who she was talking about. She still didn’t quite believe it, though, until he actually walked out and stood in front of her. Christmas came early, she insisted.
You can watch the full video here. Like Haley, it may be hard to hold back tears.