POSTED: Monday, October 10, 2011 - 11:38am
UPDATED: Monday, October 10, 2011 - 2:14pm
NBC NATIONAL NEWS — "S-E-R ," began 9-year-old Skylar Johnson, standing in front of her classmates on stage in the cafeteria of Florida's Boca Raton Elementary School.
Johnson had no idea what was coming when she was asked to spell "sergeant."
"Do you know someone who is a sergeant?" asked her teacher.
"My dad?" she replied.
"Your dad? Wow, her dad is a sergeant," her teacher told the class. "That's kind of funny because today we have a very special sergeant here."
At that moment, the stage curtains behind Skylar parted. Out walked her dad, Staff Sergeant Therron Johnson, in his National Guard uniform.
He quickly wrapped her in a giant hug.
"I love you so much!" he said.
Skylar hasn't seen her dad since Christmas. She still couldn't believe she was seeing him now.
"I was like, 'is this a dream?' Because I was about ready to close my eyes and go back to sleep and wake up again. I just don't believe this," she said, patting her stomach. "I've got butterflies!"
"I love you, baby! I love you so much!" said her father, not letting go.
Dad and daughter let the tears come, just happy to be together after so many months he was away in Iraq.
Staff Sergeant Therron Johnson serves with Charlie Company of the 1-111th Florida National Guard.
He's an Avionics Line Supervisor for the company's air ambulance and controls a medevac company that covers the southern region of Iraq.
"I was doing everything I could not to cry," he admitted. "I kind of hesitated for her to turn around and she ran at me, two to three steps and I just hugged her and told her I loved her."
"I was so excited," said Skylar, clinging to her father. "I cried so much I shook."
Staff Sergeant Johnson presented the school with an American flag that flew over Iraq in Operation New Dawn to thank the students for their support and their help.
They've been planning this reunion for the last three weeks.
"There are no words to explain how special this was," said Johnson. "To have her whole class, everybody be a part of this, it was very, very special to me."
Skylar says she will never forget today or how to spell "sergeant."
It also couldn't come at a better time.
Monday is her tenth birthday.
She said this is the best present she could ask for.
"I really hope he didn't get me a present, because this one, you can't beat it," she said. "Whatever he buys, he can't beat it."
Skylar and her father went on to surprise her brother, Christian, at Don Estridge Middle School.
Staff Sergeant Johnson has nine days to spend with his family, including some time at Disney World before he goes back to Iraq.