OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - There was a big treat and no tricks Friday for 8-year-old Natalie Wickham, a third-grade student at Oak Park Elementary in Ocean Springs.
Her treat? The return of her father.
Earlier in the day, Maj. Jesse Wickham was reunited with his wife, Laura, and 5-year-old daughter, Violet, after spending six months in Afghanistan with Keesler Air Base's 81st Medical Squadron. Then, it was Natalie's turn.
It was one of those five minute hugs, with no speaking necessary. And it was followed by a lot more.
Wickham, a physician who has been serving since 2002, was deployed for a total of six months on a NATO training mission to help Afghan officials develop a health care system.
"He was gone for a really long time and I missed him a lot," Natalie said.
It took only a week behind the scenes to set up the surprise. And it was a team effort.
"My wife really took care of everything," Wickham said. "She checked with the school to make sure it was okay if we came in and surprised her. And then the school got together... everybody was scheming behind the scenes. So, I'm sure it was a really big surprise and it was wonderful to be a part of."
Wickham will most likely get two weeks off to re-acquaint himself with his family before his next assignment.
In the meantime, Natalie has a special bonfire planned in his honor.