This story originally appeared at American Web Media.
Most people consider public speaking to be their worst nightmare. But when an eighth grade student was tapped to introduce a special guest at a middle school assembly, she quickly realized this wasn’t a routine speaking engagement.
Haley Webb was called out, in part, because her father was deployed overseas and the girl clearly struggled to cope with his multi-year absence. When Haley’s grandfather asked if they could use the assembly to announce a special surprise, administrators were only too happy to oblige.
As she made her way to the stage after playing with the band, somebody hands her a paper announcing the special guest’s bio. As she dutifully starts to read, the girl suddenly tears up roughly halfway through the script.
As it turns out, Haley’s dad, U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Jason Webb, was the mystery guest. Webb had been deployed to Korea for two years as a combat medic, and he had asked school staff to help him surprise his daughter as he returned home.
“I think it’s going to be pretty special,” Sgt. Webb told Fox News before the surprise reunion. “They’ve told her that she’s going to get up and introduce a special guest,” he explained. “As she starts reading my bio, she’ll start putting two and two together and that’s when I’ll walk out.”
Indeed, Haley recognized her father’s accomplishments about halfway through the page, which is when she started crying. “Halfway through, I kind of thought that it was him… I’m just so happy,” she said. “Christmas came early.”
Regardless, this father and daughter are eager to reconnect and make up for lost time. “Haley’s gone through tons of sacrifices… about the first six years of her life I was pretty much deployed to Iraq,” Sgt Webb said. “A year and a half of not seeing my daughter growing up and… words can’t describe it.”
The internet was equally moved by this touching reunion and lit up with touching messages to the tune of “Welcome home! Thank you for serving and protecting!” and “Thank you for your sacrifice.”
“This is what the public enjoys seeing… This country needs positive vibes not just the negativity that continues to divide this country,” another person agreed.
Even Haley’s fellow students were struck by the emotion of the moment. “Thank you for coming to my school,” a classmate wrote. “This made me cry a little watching her dad walk to her and she breaks down crying, it was an amazing time.”