Massillon — Gorrell Elementary kindergartner Natasha Klever got a surprise Monday morning that left the usually talkative youngster speechless.
While working on math problems on the white board, Natasha and her classmates noticed some visitors slip into the room — including a man dressed in camouflage clothing from head to toe.
Staff Sgt. Greg Huffman was deployed to Iraq last February. It had been almost a year since the 5-year-old had seen her dad, who had returned to the area Sunday night, but held off letting Natasha in on the news. She was expecting his return to the states later this week.
There weren’t many dry eyes in the room as Natasha realized the guy clapping for the good work she was doing on a math problem was her dad.
Confused at first and wondering what was happening, the youngster finally ran into the waiting arms of her dad, burying her head in his shoulder and hugging him tightly.
A full-time technician with the Army National Guard Bravo Company 638th ASB, Huffman said he expects to remain home for some time.
“Now I know what I have to do to keep her quiet,” he joked. “Go away for a long time and then surprise her.”
Kathy Howe, Natasha’s teacher and a neighbor to the family, said the kindergartner talks about her dad often, telling her classmates that he was “living in the dessert.”
After their long-overdue embrace, Natasha introduced her dad to the class.
Beaming from ear to ear, she explained Huffman is a soldier in the Army and has been working in the dessert.
Now that Huffman has returned home, Alexis Klever, Huffman’s girlfriend and Natasha’s mother, said the family will enjoy time together and open some Christmas presents Natasha and her 2-year-old brother, Jamison, have been holding onto in anticipation of Huffman’s homecoming.
Sporting a shirt that reads, “He’s not just my daddy, he’s my hero,” Natasha said she was planning to give her dad “lots and lots of hugs” now that he is home.
They also hoped to share pizza from Kraus’ Pizza, something Huffman said he missed while overseas.
Alexis Klever said the family also will take a trip to the Columbus area where they will stay in a hotel with a pool and visit the zoo, an activity they enjoyed over the summer with friends and now have the opportunity to share with their dad, too.
After the reunion, Gorrell students lined the halls to thank Huffman for his service and welcome him home.
Also on hand for the surprise was Huffman’s mom, Susan, and Alexis Klever’s mom, Rita.
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