It was just an average day at school for 13-year-old Lilly Lee and her brother, Caleb, 15.
The siblings from Imperial, Pennsylvania, were just going about their usual activities: Lilly was at her after-school program at West Allegheny Middle School, and Caleb was over at the high school at sports practice.
But an unexpected visitor gave these two the surprise of a lifetime.
Lilly sat with her fellow classmates after school. There were news cameras in the room—but the students were told that it was just for a segment on the program. Otherwise, she never expected anything out of the ordinary.
But then, someone entered the room—and Lilly realized she recognized the man…
It was her father, Chief Master Sgt. John Lee, home from the military!
Sgt. Lee had been deployed with the Air Force in Kuwait, away from his kids for a long time. He finally arrived home earlier than expected—but while his wife was in on it, he didn’t let his kids know, just in case plans fell through.
But now he was home, and couldn’t resist surprising his daughter at school. She screamed immediately and ran up to hug her dad.
“How you doing, baby?” Sgt. Lee asks Lilly. “I sure did miss you.”
It was the first stop in Sgt. Lee’s homecoming, having only landed hours before.
“I’m so excited to be back,” Sgt. Lee told KDKA. “It’s still like not for real yet. Just got off the plane a little while ago.” It was an emotional reunion for the returned soldier:
“I almost started crying.”
And his daughter was shocked and thrilled by the surprise visit.
“I was so confused at first ’cause I thought he was coming home later,” she explained. “So I was like, ‘Is that my dad?’ And I just ran over and gave him a hug!”
And the whole class gave a round of applause to salute the soldier:
Then, it was off to the high school.
Sgt. Lee found his son in the middle of a team workout—and the opportunity was perfect. Caleb was doing push-ups, and didn’t notice his father sneak in in front of him.
“Caleb Lee, are you working hard?”
Caleb looked up and realized it was his dad—and ran over to hug him as his teammates applauded.
“I’m feeling happy,” Caleb told KDKA.
“I’m glad my dad’s back.”
The reunited family went off and got something to eat together, the start of a long and overdue homecoming. For Sgt. Lee, it was a long wait, but the look on his children’s faces made it all worth it.
“They’re the best kids a guy could ever ask for.”