Homecomings are the best part of deployments for families. A loved one is finally home, the wait is finally over and life can go on as a complete family unit for a time.
With COVID-19, though, such public displays have been less frequent. But Staff Sergeant Kirby Karnes with the Army Reserve knew he wanted to surprise his kids with his return, so he made it work.
He’d been away nearly a year, and a year is a long time when you’re a kid. Kaden, a fourth-grader, Kipton, a kindergartener, and Khloe, just 2 years old, were looking forward to their father’s return, but they had no idea he’d show up one month early.
While he surprised his wife and youngest at home, he arranged his reunion Thursday with his sons at their school, English Landing Elementary in Parkville, Missouri, under the ruse of an interview.
Kaden and Kipton stood close together as cameras were trained on them and they were lobbed some easy questions. Then their dad walked out from behind a pillar and they realized what was going on.
“I can’t even put it into words, it’s so great,” Karnes told WGHP-TV. “FaceTime is just not the same as being able to hold them and give them hugs and read them stories before bed and nap time. Nothing can replace actually being with them.”
“I was thinking I don’t know if I’m going to be able to get the words out without crying,” he added.
The school district shared its own sweet video of the reunion, too.
“WELCOME HOME STAFF SERGEANT KARNES: Today, Staff Sergeant Kirby Karnes surprised his sons, English Landing Elementary fourth-grader Kaden Karnes and kindergartner Kipton Karnes, after being deployed 311 days to Poland with the Army Reserves,” the Park Hill School District shared Thursday on Facebook.
“Kaden and Kipton thought they were in front of the school to be interviewed by the media, but the journalists were really there to watch them get to hug their dad for the first time in almost a year! Welcome home, Staff Sgt. Karnes. Thank you for your service.”
“A HUGE thank you to everyone who prayed for me over the last 311 days,” she wrote on Facebook.
“I could not have gotten through this deployment without His strength and guidance.
“His love and His perseverance are what got me out of bed every morning with peace in my heart knowing, ‘I can do this.’ With Him… All things are possible. Even when I felt my weakest.”
Now, Karnes is looking forward to spending some quality time with his family.
“Since it’s been a long time, it feels really good for him to be home now,” Kaden said.
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