Watch: Soldier Surprises His Children at School with Early Homecoming

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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.

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“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.”

His wife also shared clips of her husband surprising Khloe as well as of the school reunion. She thanked everyone who had supported her through his deployment.

“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.

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“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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Amanda holds an MA in Rhetoric and TESOL from Cal Poly Pomona. After teaching composition and logic for several years, she's strayed into writing full-time and especially enjoys animal-related topics.
As of January 2019, Amanda has written over 1,000 stories for The Western Journal but doesn't really know how. Graduating from California State Polytechnic University with a MA in Rhetoric/Composition and TESOL, she wrote her thesis about metacognitive development and the skill transfer between reading and writing in freshman students.
She has a slew of interests that keep her busy, including trying out new recipes, enjoying nature, discussing ridiculous topics, reading, drawing, people watching, developing curriculum, and writing bios. Sometimes she has red hair, sometimes she has brown hair, sometimes she's had teal hair.
With a book on productive communication strategies in the works, Amanda is also writing and illustrating some children's books with her husband, Edward.
Austin, Texas
Languages Spoken
English und ein bißchen Deutsch
Topics of Expertise
Faith, Animals, Cooking