— -- In the midst of Sgt. First Class Joseph Kern's fifth deployment, the Cherry Hill, New Jersey, husband and father of two made a surprise stop home in honor of his daughter's 2nd birthday.
Kern, who is in the Army National Guard and has been deployed since June, and his wife, Sarah Woldoff, a neuro-psychologist in Princeton, "decided after much discussion to have him come home," Woldoff said.
"The military no longer has leave, so if you come home you have to pay for it out of pocket," she told ABC News today, adding, "It was worth every dollar."
The couple's first stop Thursday was to surprise their daughters, 3-year-old Estelle and 2-year-old Pearl, at school.
Woldoff said seeing her husband reunite with the girls was "breathtaking."
"It was great to see Estelle's face. I think she was a little bit confused and in shock," Woldoff said.
But Pearl apparently didn't recognize her father and walked right past him.
"We were both slightly disappointed with Pearl's response," Woldoff said. "You never realize that they're so young, they don't have as much of a memory of him as we anticipated."
Woldoff had even more in store Thursday night to surprise her mother-in-law. She called up a Vorhees restaurant and told them about the surprise. She suggested that her husband be the family's waiter, and the restaurant was "totally on board."
"They gave him a full uniform and kept him in the back," she said. And when he came out, "My mother-in-law didn't even realize it was him. We had to point it out." Woldoff said. "She lost it. She was in utter shock and just hysterical."
Woldoff said she hopes having the emotional reunions recorded on video will help her 2-year-old remember them.
"In hindsight, I'm really glad we did it the way we did. Pearl's too little to have the memory of it, but I think Estelle will remember," Woldoff said. "And it'll ease the transition. Everyone forgets he has to go back on Tuesday, and it's really confusing for her on why he has to leave again."