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PARKVILLE, Mo. (WDAF) – A metro man in the Army Reserves surprised his kids at their Park Hill school a month early on Thursday.

It was almost called off because of the pandemic, but the district and this family didn’t let COVID-19 ruin the fun.

It’s been 311 days since Sgt. Kirby Karnes has held his wife and three kids, so he decided to surprise his kids with a special homecoming outside English Landing Elementary. He thought, what’s few more seconds hiding behind a pillar to give them a homecoming to remember?

“I can’t even put it into words, it’s so great,” Karnes said. “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.”

It was a surprise fourth-grader Kaden and kindergartner Kipton have wanted since Dad was deployed to Poland nearly a year ago.

“I was thinking I don’t know if I’m going to be able to get the words out without crying,” Karnes said.

While Kaden’s dad is serving his country oversees, he watches lots of videos of soldiers coming home.

“Even they seem happy,” Karnes said. “Just, you could see an underlying sadness in their eyes.”

That’s why the school and Karnes got creative, even through COVID-19 restrictions, to give Kaden his “military homecoming experience” with his dad.

“Since it’s been a long time, it feels really good for him to be home now,” Kaden said.

The heartwarming moment at the school wasn’t the only thing Karnes had planned for his family. He showed up to their house early to surprise his wife and two-year-old, too.

“I was shocked,” wife Katie Karnes said. “ I was really excited because he had flowers and chocolate.”

While Katie is happy to have her husband and home, the kids are soaking up some much missed play time, already asking Dad to “spin me, spin me.”

They also have big plans on the agenda Thursday night: “I want to jump on the trampoline,” Kipton said.

“We’ll do that then,” Karnes responded.

Karnes said all the hugs love and laughter make fighting for his country and family worth it.