Mission accomplished: Hero surprises daughter after year away

NEWARK, Del. (WPVI) -- Staff Sgt. Eric Cheeseman got a surprise welcome home after a year's deployment at Guantanamo Bay.

The military policeman with the Army National Guard is enlisting troops from the Delaware Chapters of the Patriot Guard Riders and A Hero's Welcome. Together they pulled off an even bigger surprise.

"(Is this probably the most covert mission that you've been on in all of your years?) Pretty much, pretty much," said Sgt. Cheeseman.

The father of three - 18-month-old Jaxton, 4-year-old Mackenzie and 7-year-old Riley - has not seen his kids in a year.

Cheeseman arrived home this week, and saw his wife, Kelly, who was in on Thursday's "secret" mission.

Riley's first-grade class at Jennie E. Smith Elementary School thought they were having an assembly on heroes. Riley took the stage to talk about her dad when Sgt. Cheeseman surprised her.

His girls surrounded him, crying, and he gave them green flowers for St. Patrick's Day.

Reunited, the mission was a success.

"You thought I was still in Cuba, didn't you?" said Sgt. Cheeseman.

The sergeant himself was shocked by how many people gathered for his arrival.

"He had no clue," said Kelly Cheeseman. "He just thought he was coming to the school to surprise Riley."

"I thought I'd just come to try to get her out of class, and that was it," said Sgt. Cheeseman.

The military man couldn't hold back his tears of joy, and the room couldn't help but erupt into patriotic chants.

"My daddy," said Riley when asked what her response was to her principal's question: Did she know a hero?

The trip home is even more special for the Chesseman family. That's because after serving 20 years in the military, the sergeant has decided he's going to retire, and now he's home for good.
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