A central Florida first-grader got a happy ending at story time: a surprise visit from her dad.
Madison Bonnichson had no idea that her dad, Sgt. Ryan Bonnichson, was home for a short break. The little girl had been without her father during his yearlong military tour.
On his way home, Bonnichson made a special stop at Apollo Elementary School in Florida’s Brevard County for an emotional reunion.
Madison’s mother and teachers planned the big surprise during story time with her class. But nobody could measure the happiness of the young girl seeing her dad after a yearlong separation. His unexpected arrival was caught on tape: "Daddy!” she said, before jumping into his arms. "Daddy!"
Bonnichson is home for two weeks before he is deployed for another year.
"It's overwhelming," the military dad told local TV station WESH as his wife stood by holding flowers from her husband. He added, "They're really the ones that suffer. I just do it day to day to make sure they're fine. It's a good feeling that we’re home. It’s not for a long time, but any time is better than no time."
Ten years after the Iraq War began, and with the war in Afghanistan still requiring troops on the ground, his reunion with Madison is a reminder of the heavy toll on families at home as well as those completing military service away.