An unsuspecting high school senior thought she was attending a school assembly Friday morning but instead walked right into an emotional, surprise reunion with her military father.
Kiana Jones, a senior at Somerset Academy High School in Pembroke Pines, Florida, believed her father would be coming home toward the end of October. Her dad, Army Lt. Col. Aaron Jones, said long separations are nothing new for the family.
"Our father-daughter bond is unique," Jones said of his only child just before the surprise reunion. "I've been in the military 18 years, so this is nothing new to her. She's pretty resilient when it comes to this, but I think today her emotions are going to show."
As the band played, students walked in holding a "welcome home" sign bearing Aaron Jones' name. Kiana Jones was in disbelief.
"When I saw his name, I was just like, 'Wait, wait like – Aaron Jones? Like, my dad?'" she told NBC 6. "It didn't make sense to me, but when I saw his boots, then I realized that he was actually here."
As her father entered the gymnasium, Kiana Jones ran to embrace him. The two hugged and cried as the band played, and the gym roared with applause and cheers.
Aaron Jones and school officials planned the reunion well in advance and managed to keep the surprise under wraps for months.
This was Aaron Jones' fifth deployment of his military career. For the past nine months, he's served in Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq.
As a result, Aaron Jones missed his daughter's entire junior year, making Friday's reunion even more special.
"It's just, it's amazing," Kiana Jones said, wiping away tears of joy. "I'm just happy to have him home safe."
Aaron Jones is on reserve and said he doesn't expect to be heading anywhere anytime soon.