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Navy dad surprises daughter at school

Sailor home after year in Afghanistan

Petty Officer Second Class Nehemiah Johnson is reunited with his three children.
Petty Officer Second Class Nehemiah Johnson is reunited with his three children.

MAYPORT, Fla. – Twelve-year-old Faith Johnson had no idea her dad, a Navy sailor stationed in Afghanistan, was going to return home Friday and surprise her at school.

The sixth-grader hadn't seen her dad in a year, and she thought it was just going to be a typical day at Mayport Middle School. It turned into a surprise she'll never forget.

Faith's teacher told the class the cameras were in the room to talk about the FCAT. She called up students to write keywords on the board they learned taking the test over the computer.

Faith was writing the importance of underlining keywords when her dad walked in. Then the reality of him standing next to her really sunk in.

After an emotional reunion, Faith was excused from class and left for an early weekend with her family.

Petty Officer Second Class Nehemiah Johnson was working hand-in-hand with the Afghan Army at a detention facility in Bagram. He said it's so good to be home.

"Not having to walk on rocks every day, getting to see water -- because where I was there was no water -- being able to see my children and have a great time with them -- I miss their faces and their smiles," Johnson said. "Skype doesn't do justice when you're actually able to touch someone."

A lot's changed since Johnson left. Faith became the volleyball team's manager and his youngest daughter, Hope, lost her two front teeth.

They'll all have a lot of time to catch up over the next month by visiting grandma in Pensacola, a surprise trip to Universal Studios and some smaller plans.

"Well, we love Krispy Kreme doughnuts, so we're going to eat all the Krispy Kreme doughnuts we can," Faith said.

There's nothing Johnson's children would rather have than their dad by their side -- a surprise Faith will treasure forever.

"Someone was standing next to me," Faith said. "I thought it was Ms. McCrae or Ms. Welch or something, and I looked out of the corner of my eye to see who it was and then I said, 'Is that my dad?' And then I said, 'No, no, no.' So I kept on writing, and then I looked again and said, 'Oh my goodness, it is,' and then I was about to start crying, but since everyone was there, I just turned my head and started crying. I was really excited."

After a couple months, Johnson will go back to Afghanistan for at least the next nine months. Right now he's focusing on spending time with his family.