Shannon Huggins, 6, never could have guessed how story time would end for her Friday.
She's a first-grader at Pasadena Lakes Elementary School, and it's been 11 months since her father, Eric Huggins, deployed for Afghanistan. Huggins is a military police officer in the U.S. Army.
Shannon's mother, Kidada Scott, said his time away has been rough on her daughter.
"She misses him a lot. She talks about him. She looks at the news, and every time there's a segment or any soldiers featured in the news, she'll always say, ‘Mommy, my daddy, he's in the Army," said Scott.
Huggins surprised the whole family when he called Friday morning to say he was home, on leave from his post a half a world away, but he wanted saved this biggest surprise for his little girl.
"I haven't seen her in a few months, and I didn't want to tell her that I'm coming, so I said, ‘You know what, I'm just going to come to the school and pick her up," Huggins said.
Shannon was so intently listening to the teacher read a story that she didn't notice her father sneak into the media center, but when she did, she was, in a word, speechless.
"I think she's filled with emotions right now. I think she's happy, but then, it couldn't be. You know, she's having that, 'It couldn't be,' that type of reaction,” Huggins said.
Shannon got to show dad her classroom, and her classmates got to meet a real-life soldier, an American hero to them, and the best daddy in the world to one little girl.
"Was this a good surprise?" asked Local 10's Roger Lohse.
"Yes, because I haven't seen him in a long time," Shannon replied.
Huggins has to go back to Afghanistan on Christmas Eve, but between now and then, he said he intends to take his daughter Christmas shopping and to Disney World.