How do you spell surprise?
For one Florida girl, it was d-a-d or, rather, s-e-r-g-e-a-n-t.
There was no blue ribbon for Skylar Johnson when she correctly spelled that word, sergeant, at her elementary school’s spelling bee Friday.
Instead, the 9-year-old from Boca Raton got the surprise of her lifetime, a reunion with her dad, a U.S. Army soldier on leave from duty in Iraq.
As Johnson took to the cafeteria stage for the Boca Raton Elementary School’s fourth-grade spelling bee, her father, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Therron Johnson, took his place behind the curtain.
When she correctly spelled sergeant, the curtain behind her was pulled and out stepped her dad, in camouflage and all.
The two, seeing each other for the first time since Christmas, hugged tightly as the cafeteria filled with applause and tears.
It’s a good thing Skylar thought the spelling bee was a real event she should prepare for, even though her elementary school and her dad knew otherwise.
Johnson came up with the idea for the reunion, and spent more than a month working, from Iraq, with school officials to plan the event, which became the fake spelling bee.
It was all a ruse to pull of the reunion of the dad, and daughter’s, dreams, and it worked.
“Not one clue,” a still-shocked Skylar told the Sun-Sentinel. “I was having an OK day until right now. When I’m with him, it’s perfect.”
Johnson originally told Skylar and his other child, son Christian, 12, that he would be home in late September. He then changed the date to late October to throw them off, and give him time to pull off the surprise.
With all that planning, Johnson couldn’t just leave his return as a surprise for only one of his two children.
He later showed up at Don Estridge High Tech Middle School for another emotional reunion, this time surprising his shocked son at the end of the school day.
Each of the children’s schools received a flag flown over Iraq from Johnson to thank them for their help.
Johnson, based in Jacksonville, Fla., and six days into his 15-day leave, will be home with his family for another week before returning to duty in southern Iraq, where he works on ambulance aircraft for a medevac unit.