Most kids gets to spend Christmas morning with their families and open presents, but military families operate on a different schedule than most.
Payton Stephen, a sixth-grade student at John F. Kennedy Elementary School in Riverside, Calif., wasn’t sure if she would get to see her dad, Chief Warrant Officer Darrell Stephen, in time for Christmas.
Darrell had spent the last eight months in Afghanistan, according to CBS Los Angeles. So when the opportunity to surprise Payton at her school arose, Darrell didn’t pass on it.
When Payton saw her father walking over during her lunch break, tears of joy immediately struck as she embraced Darrell for the first time in eight months.
Darrell explained his daughter had been text messaging him, asking if he would make it home in time to celebrate Christmas. He said he was unsure because they don’t give exact travel dates.
“I was really, really hoping everything was going to fall into place, and I could get home for Christmas and surprise her,” Darrell told CBS Los Angeles.
“I didn’t think he was going to get home for Christmas with like 10 days left,” Payton said. “It was really surprising to me.”
Visit LosAngeles.cbslocal.com to see the entire video of Darrell’s surprise return.