Autumn Gazeley has written several letters to Santa in the past few weeks.
In each note, the 5-year-old specifically requested the return of her father, who has been deployed in Kuwait for almost a year.
“She constantly talks about him and asks when he’s coming home,” said Autumn’s mother, Amber.
Autumn is in kindergarten at Maiden Elementary School in Catawba County.
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On Wednesday, the school and Autumn’s parents set up the surprise of a lifetime during morning reading time in the library.
Amber Gazeley came to read a book, which is common with parent volunteers. As Autumn sat down, she noticed the book her mother was reading was about a child’s dad who is a hero in the military.
After the short book was done, Autumn was asked to stand up and talk about her dad.
“He’s in Texas right now and he’ll be home after Christmas,” she told her classmates.
She had no idea her dad, Sgt. George Gazeley, was mere feet away from her, separated by a door. He was hiding in a conference room when the class gave a round of applause for Autumn’s dad. It was the perfect time to enter, which he did.
Autumn looked stunned to see him and didn’t move until Sgt. Gazeley walked over and reached down to pick her up.
“Da Da!” she said over and over with her head buried in her father’s neck. “Da Da, I missed you,” she said.
The two have been separated for 10 months while Gazeley has been working with the 638th Support Battalion.
“It feels good. It feels good to be back and see my family again, especially my little girl,” Gazeley said.
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