Soldier surprises daughter at school with early homecoming

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Six-year-old Violet got an unexpected visitor during lunchtime Friday at Evans Elementary School in Marlton. (WPVI)

Six-year-old Violet got an unexpected visitor during lunchtime Friday at Evans Elementary School in Marlton.

She didn't see him coming, but felt a tap on her shoulder. It took her a minute or two to realize the uniformed man crouching in front of her was her dad, U.S. Air Force MSgt. James Avery, home a day early to surprise her and her first-grade class.

"It was kind of spur of the moment. I just wanted to give Violet something to remember, and the kids in her class and the school is very supportive," said MSgt. Avery.

MSgt. Avery has been deployed to Southwest Asia for the last seven months. He's a cargo transport officer in the Air Force who couldn't be happier to have his little girl back in his arms.

"She looks terrific. It looks like when I showed up she was a little stunned," said MSgt. James Avery. "She didn't recognize me right away. She got some new eyeglasses."

"She looked a little bit like she wanted to cry, but she didn't know how to really react," said Kristin Avery, Wife.

"Yeah I'm happy to see him," said Violet, daughter.

MSgt. Avery has been with the Air Force for 15 years, and has been deployed seven times to spots all over the world. It's tough to be away, but he says the homecomings are wonderful.

"Oh terrific. No complaints. Obviously I'm very excited," said MSgt. Avery.

And the first-graders were excited to see him. While he was deployed, Violet's classmates sent letters and Valentines to Avery's unit and teachers kept an eye on her.

"When you're at that young age and in first-grade, you need as much support as possible both academically, socially or otherwise," said Principal Nicholas DiBlasi. "So I think it is difficult."

And now that he's home, the first thing Violet wants to do with her dad?

"See a movie with him," said Violet. " 'The Jungle Book.' "

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