Home in time for Christmas: Overseas US Soldier surprises young daughters at school
CENTERVILLE, Iowa —
Christmas came early for two southeast Iowa students.
An elementary assembly was held in the Centerville High School Auditorium on Tuesday.
Third grader Kaydence and her sister Allyson Garden, who is in first grade, were called out of all the students for the opportunity to open a special present.
And what a gift it was.
Hiding in a box was their father, Sergeant Andrew Garden, who had just returned after serving with the Unites States Army in Kuwait.
The girls hadn't seen their dad in 10 months, and had no idea they would be seeing him during the assembly on Tuesday.
"I didn't know. I was like, what is in that thing? What is in there? Just tell me what is in there," exclaimed Kaydence.
"I was expecting something to jump out and scare me," said Allyson.
While in Kuwait, Andrew worked as an administration specialist.
"I pretty much did a secretary job this time around, but the unit as a whole, we took care of a lot of the food in the area and then we took care of all the working dogs. I mainly supported them so they could accomplish their mission," Andrew said.
Kaydence and Allyson's mom, Devon, said this surprise wouldn't have been possible without the help of Centerville staff.
"I just want to thank Diane Fatka of the [Centerville] Central School. This was completely her idea. She pulled me aside a couple of months ago and asked me if this was ok. I wasn't expecting antyhing like this. We just originally wanted to walk into the girls classrooms, hey.. surprise, dad is home, and that be it. This was completely all her."
The girls said that when they first saw their dad, they had a rush of emotions.
"When I saw my dad in the box, I was like, oh.. this can't be. I got so excited." Kaydence exclaimed.
And Kaydence and Allyson aren't afraid to admit that the past 10 months without their dad have been hard.
"When it was the 10 months, going through, it was pretty tough. I cried four times in second grade and 7 times in third grade," said Kaydence.
"I've cried on my [school] trip before," Allyson added.
The family says they are now looking forward to spending time together, making more memories and getting ready to celebrate Christmas.
When KTVO asked Andrew how he felt surprising his daughters, Allyson was able to sum it for the entire Garden family.
"I don't know how to put into words. I really don't," said Andrew.
"The best," said Allyson.
"The best," Andrew added.