JOPLIN, Mo. — Three McKinley Elementary School students got a special surprise when their dads skipped the welcome home at the airport for a special visit.

Carter, Maverick, and Sterling thought it was just a normal day at McKinley Elementary School when they were walking up to receive what the school calls a “positive referral,” handed to them by mascots Eddie the Eagle and Hug-A-Bear.

Instead, the students got the surprise of a lifetime when they turned around, and the mascots revealed themselves as their dads.

United States Army National Guard Specialists Coltan Owens and Joshua Watson were finally able to see their sons for the first time in 10 months, a reunion that brought tons of emotion.

“Especially when I saw him walk out there on the patio. I was like, make sure my knees didn’t buckle. Because you had to see him. After nine months of talking on FaceTime, it’s good. But it’s not the same as having that connection with him,” said Coltan Owens, U.S. Army National Guard Specialist.

“Last time I deployed, I didn’t. I didn’t have a family to come home to because I was so young, and this time it’s just a lot of nerves and stuff. Getting to see the family again,” said Joshua Watson, U.S. Army National Guard Specialist.

“I didn’t know he was coming home today,” said Carter Watson, Joshua Watson’s Son / McKinley Elementary Second Grader.

Carter tells us he plans to go play video games with his dad.