Army dad returns home to surprise wife, daughter at Kansas City elementary school

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It was an emotional reunion Tuesday at Fox Hill Elementary School.

A soldier surprised his wife and daughter there. They weren’t expecting him for another few days.

“We've been feeling like it's been 5 million years since he's been home,” Marley Sanchez said.

After a 10-month deployment in Afghanistan, Army Reservist Eben Sanchez surprised his wife and 8-year-old daughter during lunch.

School administrators quickly arranged the reunion to be held in the cafeteria while all the third-graders were having lunch. His wife Rachael Sanchez was serving as a lunch monitor.

“I just thought it would be cool to just shock them, come home and surprise them, instead of just meeting them at the airport, something a little different,” Eben said.

“I was just so shocked," Rachael said. "I had no idea, no idea this was happening today."

“It took me a second to realize who he was," his daughter Marley said. "I thought it was all a dream."

“Seeing my wife and seeing that shock on her face that I'm here -- words can't express that,” Eben said as he teared up.

The Sanchez family says it's sometimes hard when Eben is so far away.

“The hardest part for me was watching my wife struggle, not being able to help out when she needed me and watching my kids grow,” Eben said.

“It's kind of hard to not be able to have your dad with you because my dad has always been my hero,” Marley said.

But they say it's moments like these that make it all worth it.

“It's like life is complete again because while he's away, it's just not complete," Rachael said. "You try to make it as normal as possible, but it's just not."

“I'm glad I'm home now," Eben said. "I'm glad I'm holding my family. This is what I do it for. This is why I serve my country.”

The school is holding a Veterans Day assembly Friday.

Marley said she wrote a speech on what a veteran means to her and that this was the best surprise.

"Wars may come and go, but veterans are in our hearts forever," she said.