COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - When Major Lataya Hawkins and her daughter walked onto the football field at A. J. McClung Memorial Stadium Saturday, they thought it was all about the soldier they were escorting on the field.
But when she heard the announcer at the Albany State and Fort Valley State Fountain City Football Classic game say her husband's name--she whispered, "He's here!"
At that moment, she knew her husband Major Deric Hawkins who's been deployed in Bagram, Afghanistan for the last 9 months was waiting in the wings.
Then, the big reveal…Major Deric Hawkins appeared from behind the color guard.
"I wasn't expecting him home until Thanksgiving, so I'm just so happy he made it back safely and he's here early."
Daughter Gabrielle said she had no idea her dad was in the stadium.
"When I saw him come out that's when I was happy." Gabrielle gave her husband a big hug and told him, 'I love you.'
Major Deric Hawkins time overseas was cut short due to his unit completing its mission in the Lagman Province of Afghanistan. He told News Leader 9's they successfully helped establish a police force and create a growing economy.
"Oh yeah, a blessed Thanksgiving, but we're still praying for the other soldiers to make it home who won't spend Thanksgiving together," explained Major Deric Hawkins, who was apart of a special operation task force in the 194th Armor Brigade at Fort Benning.