SANDSTON, VA (WWBT) - A Henrico first grader received a special birthday gift today - her father came home from Afghanistan to surprise her at school.
Staff Sargeant Jordan Jones waited nervously outside Sandston Elementary school Friday morning. He would call his daughter McKenzie at school from Afghanistan from time to time, but this time he wasn't calling long distance.
"Yes, I'm calling for McKenzie?" Jones said on the phone.
This time he was at her school.
"Are you ready for your birthday party?" he asked as he walked into the school.
McKenzie thought she was rejoining her first grade class in the auditorium. Instead she was reuniting with her dad on stage after nine months apart.
"She got really tall since I've been gone," Jones said. "Glad to see her, glad to be home."
McKenzie was speechless after being scooped up in her father's arms.
"She loves her daddy very much," said McKenzie's grandmother Donnetta Payne. "It's been hard on her being away from him for so long."
McKenzie's mom says part of the reason Staff Sgt. Jones wanted to surprise McKenzie here at school is because he wanted to say thank you to her classmates for the letters they sent him in Afghanistan.
"Kenzie had this flag here flown in a big airplane Afghanistan for you guys," Jones said as he presented the flag to her classmates.
Jones gave Mrs. Taylor's class a flag he brought back with him with as a thank you for all their support.
McKenzie celebrated her birthday on Thursday. She knew her dad was coming home soon.
"Sunday at church, when our pastor asked if there were any celebrations she stood up and said, 'my daddy is coming to America'," Payne said.
She just didn't know when. Her mom says McKenzie's been a nervous wreck wondering if her dad was going to be home in time for the party on Saturday.
"(She's been) crying at night," McKenzie's mom Jennifer Adkins said. "She wasn't sure he was going to make it home for her birthday party, which is tomorrow. Just about every night for the past month it's been a teary one for her."
Now McKenzie says she has the best gift she could ask for.
Jones just finished his second deployment to Afghanistan. He says this time he's home for good.