Five-year-old Aaliyah Ernest got an early Christmas present this week when her dad, a soldier on his fifth tour of duty in Afghanistan, surprised her at school.
Returning after six months in Afghanistan, Army Specialist Chester Ernest hid inside of a huge box covered in Barbie wrapping paper and adorned with a big red bow, according to ABC News affiliate KII-TV.
Teachers wheeled the box into the library of Zavala Elementary School in Corpus Christi, Texas, and the shy kindergartener was called up to the front of the room. In front of her classmates, Aaliyah carefully tugged at the red ribbon, unwrapped the larger-than-life gift and was scooped up into her dad's arms.
Having her father at her side was what Aaliyah and the entire Ernest family wanted most for Christmas.
"As she gets older, it gets harder," Ernest told to KII-TV. "I'm just excited to finally see her again."