There wasn’t a dry eye in the room when a U.S. Army soldier surprised his young daughter at her elementary school last week, a moment that has since melted hearts across social media.
Aaliyah Benjamin, a fourth grader at Ola Elementary in Henry County, Georgia, recalled the moment she laid eyes on her dad, U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Andrew Benjamin after his return from his six-month deployment overseas.
The young girl wasted no time running into her father’s arms for a tight embrace at the suburban Atlanta school.
“It was a hug because I almost cried,” Aaliyah told Atlanta station WSB-TV. “He came to my school, and I haven’t seen him in a long time.”
The fourth grader said she’s missed her dad badly these last few months and oftentimes cried herself to sleep thinking of him.
“When I’m alone with my mom, and I really want my dad beside me … I cry myself to sleep those nights,” she explained, adding, “and I still think about him when I’m sleeping, and then when I wake up, I still think about him at school, and that’s how I don’t concentrate.”
Her tears of sadness have turned to joy now that her father is back home. So how did he manage to pull off the surprise?
According to WSB-TV, Henry County school district officials said two of the school’s fourth grade classes were instructed to meet in the library for a surprise mystery reader. They were totally unaware Benjamin would be making an appearance, however.
Benjamin was equally thrilled about the reunion and said he was happy to finally “be in person and actually hold my daughter, hold my wife (and) see my family.”
With Benjamin retiring from the service soon, he and family plan on this being his last military homecoming, according to the district.
“Thank you, Chief Benjamin, for your service to our country during your career, and thank you for allowing us to make your final homecoming extra special!” Henry County Schools wrote on Facebook. “A special thank you to the Benjamin family for your commitment and sacrifice as well!”
The heartwarming moment garnered plenty of reactions from social media users.
“This is awesome!! Thank you to you and your family for your service to our great country! Welcome home!!,” one person commented.
“Thank you for your service Chief Benjamin and thank you Mrs Benjamin …. It’s not easy doing it all by yourself,” another chimed in. “These photos are priceless!! So glad you are home safe!♥️”
One user said the Benjamins’ sweet reunion “got me right in the feels … awesome story! Thanks for service Chief Benjamin.”
Watch more in the video below.