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Tears, smiles, hugs mark Air Force officer’s emotional homecoming at children’s school

A Soldier's Surprise Return

Mona Shield Payne

With tears streaming down her face, Jordan Powell, 10, looks into the eyes of her father, Air Force Major Scott Powell, in disbelief after he surprised her by coming home early from serving in Afghanistan in her classroom at Henry and Evelyn Bozarth Elementary School Thursday, May 23, 2013.

Updated Thursday, May 23, 2013 | 10:30 p.m.

Air Force Officer's Surprise Return

Aaron Powell, 9, receives a kiss from his dad in the school hallway after he surprised him by coming home early from serving in Afghanistan at Henry and Evelyn Bozarth Elementary School Thursday, May 23, 2013. Launch slideshow »

Jordan Powell was listening to her principal talk about the significance of Memorial Day when she received the surprise of a lifetime.

Her dad, an Air Force pilot who had just returned home from Afghanistan, suddenly appeared at her classroom door.

"Daddy!" the Bozarth Elementary School fifth-grader cried out as she rushed into Scott Powell's arms, sobbing. "I missed you."

There were plenty of tears, smiles and hugs on Thursday as Bozarth Elementary played host to a happy homecoming and family reunion. The school, located in between Creech and Nellis Air Force bases, has a significant population of military families, including the Powells.

For the past seven months, Maj. Scott Powell, 42, was deployed in war-torn Afghanistan, conducting reconnaissance missions in an MC-12 Liberty aircraft.

And for the past seven months, Jordan, 10, and her siblings – 9-year-old Aaron and 13-year-old Jayde – had missed their dad.

Scott Powell had missed them, too. He missed all the big holidays – birthdays, Thanksgiving and Christmas. He also missed the little events, like cheering on Jordan in soccer and playing catch with Aaron.

And although the Powells were able to video-chat most days, it just wasn't the same.

"When you're flying downrange, it's just part of the job," Scott said. "But being away from family, missing all the important things, that's definitely the hard part.

"It's awesome to be home to see my kids again," he said, a big grin on his face. "It's definitely nice to be home."

Just two hours beforehand, Scott stepped off the plane and decided to surprise his two youngest children attending Bozarth. It was something he had seen plenty of times on television and YouTube, and something he wanted to do for his kids to kick off Memorial Day weekend.

Jordan said she was surprised to see her dad at school. According to Jordan’s countdown, her dad wasn't supposed to be home for at least another two weeks.

"It feels really, really nice to have dad home because he's been in Afghanistan so long," Jordan said, tears in her eyes. "He doesn't know how much I missed him. He means the world to me, and I didn't want him to get hurt so I'm so glad he's here today."

"I was so excited I wanted to hug him," Aaron said, smiling. "I just couldn't believe my eyes he was home already."

Scott is retiring next month, capping a 20-year military career that saw five deployments to far-flung countries like South Korea, Romania and Qatar. Now that he's home, Scott hopes to continue flying as a commercial pilot.

His wife, Angela Powell, said she was relieved to have her husband home. His retirement signals the end of the many hardships military wives face: caring for three children by herself and too many sleepless nights to count.

"It takes a special person to be in the military," Angela, 42, said. "It's very hard. It's overwhelming sometimes.

"I've got a few more gray hairs," she added, smiling.

"You're still as pretty as ever," Scott said, planting a peck on her forehead.

Shortly before Scott came home, an MC-12 aircraft in his squadron had crashed in Afghanistan. Four airmen were killed.

"That's when I realized that this is real," Angela said. "It was very worrisome.

"It's a big relief he's home safe," she continued. "But you have to remember the ones who aren't coming home and everyone still over there."

The newly-reunited Powell family plans to celebrate Scott's homecoming with all of his favorite foods that he's missed overseas: A Sin City burger from Smashburger and chicken wings from Buffalo Wild Wings.

For Jordan, the special memory of her father surprising her at school is one she said she'll never forget.

"He's a really good hero," she said, choking back tears. "He's been an awesome father to me and I just love him so much."

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