BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A student at Popp's Ferry Elementary got a huge surprise Monday morning. Tech. Sgt. Casey Richardson just returned from a seven-month tour in Afghanistan. Monday morning, he found himself waiting backstage to surprise his daughter, Alexia, at a school assembly.
"It seems like it's still surreal. It's not real right now," said Casey's wife, Charity. She's is an assistant kindergarten teacher at Popp's Ferry Elementary.
"She told us about two weeks ago that he was coming back, and we had already picked today as a superhero day. and so it kind of just fell into place. It was like it was just meant to be," said Principal Dr. Todd Boucher.
The school was celebrating Red Ribbon Week, and Charity said the staff and administrators jumped at the chance to include Casey's homecoming in the festivities.
"They have been supportive. They have helped me when I needed it. I feel very grateful to be a part of the community that is willing to do things without me even asking," Charity said.
The assembly started with the principal calling students up to talk about the traits of real heroes. Then, he called on Alexia. She made her way to the front of the auditorium and sat down on the edge of the stage with Boucher.
After several questions about different professions and people who could be considered heroes. He had one more question for her.
"What about this guy behind me?" said Boucher while a projector screen rolled back into the ceiling, revealing Casey standing behind it.
The moment was priceless, and Alexia leaped onto the stage where she and her father shared a long embrace. The auditorium erupted in cheers, and there wasn't a dry eye to be found.
"Just very emotional. She missed daddy like crazy," said Charity, who said Alexia wasn't expecting her dad home until November.
"I'm very surprised that my dad is home, and I'm happy that he's home. I had no idea," said Alexia.
Casey was full of emotions, as well.
"Trying to keep myself grounded, but it's tough," Casey said.
Charity was just relieved to have a return to normalcy for awhile.
"Very emotional. I'm glad that we're going to be a family again," Charity said.
After surprising their daughter, the Richardsons also surprised their younger son, Zachary, at his school. Casey is scheduled to be home for at least 18 months.