Soldier, gone 9 1/2 months, surprises daughters at school

By Taylor Barnhill  - bio | email | Twitter

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - With high school graduation approaching, many parents are searching for the perfect present to give their child.

News Leader Nine found one mother who surprised her daughters with the greatest gift ever -- their father.

While Shailee Barnes prepares for her high school graduation, her parents are planning a big surprise for her.

Her mom Tracey Barnes said, "My husband is coming home from Afghanistan. He's been gone 9 1/2 months and she has an idea he may be coming but she doesn't know. We wanted to surprise her and make graduation all about her."

Before walking into the schools to surprise his daughters, we ask Sgt. 1st Class Jeff Barnes how he thinks his kids will react, "She'll be excited, but embarrassed that we are at her school in front of all her friends. My youngest will scream and then cry."

Tracey agreed saying, "I think my high school student will be shocked but mad that we hid him. And my youngest will be emotional and mad we hid him."

Our first stop is Columbus High School where the principal makes a special announcement at graduation practice, then Jeff walks into the gymnasium.

Columbus High School senior Shailee Barnes told News Leader Nine, "At first I didn't know why she was crying, she's been crying all morning. Then I didn't know she said my name until everyone looked at me so I got up and just hoped it was me. I'm super excited. I was shaking and I have butterflies, it's weird. I wasn't expecting that at all."

Then we go to Mathews Elementary to surprise Mackenzee in class. She said, "I was kind of mad because I would have wanted him here earlier. I was very surprised. I wasn't expecting it at all. I'm happy, excited that my dad is back home with me."

Sgt. Barnes has actually been in town since Sunday and was hiding out in a hotel in the area so his kids wouldn't spot him. The girls are excited to have their dad home after all this time and he's excited to see his little girl graduate this weekend.

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