— OXFORD, Ala. (AP) — After school, 7-year-old Joss Timmons got to take a poster he'd made for his father, a soldier deployed to Kuwait in January.
He also got to take home his dad.
Sgt. 1st Class Victor Timmons, 42, expected to be home at Thanksgiving along with the other 239 troops in the Alabama Army National Guard 135th Expeditionary Sustainment Command. Instead, he found himself on a plane back to Alabama 10 days early. His unit arrived in Birmingham on Saturday.
He surprised his son inside his second-grade classroom at Oxford Elementary School on Monday, cutting short the nearly yearlong absence with a long hug.
Under guise of likely the most media-covered Dirt Day (a program that teaches students about soil) in the school's history, several news cameras and reporters covered the moment when Joss spotted his dad standing at his classroom door.
Joss jumped from his seat on the floor, voiced an excited, "Hey, Dad," and ran into his father's arms for the long embrace.
The surprise reunion was the idea of a Timmons family friend, Oxford Elementary teacher Angie Hurst.
"It's probably the last time I'm going to do this," said Timmons. He plans to retire in August after 25 years of service. This deployment was his second; he also served overseas during Desert Storm. He plans to work at a friend's Oxford business after leaving the military.
"He's my sidekick," Timmons said of Joss. "When I'm here, we're attached at the hip."
The task of keeping her husband's return a secret wasn't easy, said Joss's mother, Amanda.
"When he said, 'I really miss my dad and I really want him home,' I almost broke," she said. "He's all about his daddy."
Asked what he felt upon seeing his dad at the door Joss said "Awesome. Good. Surprised."
Timmons, whose 24-year-old son Stefan is currently serving in the U.S. Navy in the Arabian Sea, asked that everyone remember the men and women still serving overseas.
"Glad to be here. Glad to be with my family. It's been a long year," Timmons said.