While presenting a timeline of his life in class, Pedro Masso Jr. was surprised when the last panel read, "Today Daddy comes home." Then his dad, a returning soldier, strode to the front of the room.

CRESTVIEW — On the morning of Sept. 26, Walker Elementary School first-graders in Heather Spellings’ class presented personal timelines they and their parents created. One after the other, the children recounted their first six years of life. Pedro Masso Jr. eagerly anticipated his turn, not knowing the most recent entry in his timeline held a big surprise.

Pedro’s dad, Sgt. Pedro Masso Sr., a communications specialist with the U.S. Army Seventh Special Forces Group (Airborne), had been deployed in Afghanistan since January. His eldest son and namesake missed him, and frequently asked his mom, Stephanie Masso, when his dad would be coming home.

Unbeknown to Pedro, Wednesday was the day.

Stephanie Masso arrived with Pedro’s timeline and together they and Spellings presented it to the class. They looked at photos of Pedro as an infant, from his first Christmas to riding his dirt bike. Then there was a last entry: “Today Daddy comes home.”

“What does that mean?” Spellings said.

Pedro looked a little befuddled.

His mom helped him read through it, and before it totally registered, Sgt. Pedro Masso Sr. walked to the front of the room. With a scream of “Daddy!” his son ran and leaped into his arms.

“This is Pedro’s daddy,” Spellings explained to Pedro’s classmates. “He’s been away a long, long time.”

Stephanie Masso said she and her husband had been planning a memorable homecoming reunion for several months. Plans had to be adjusted as Pedro Masso Sr.’s schedule fluctuated. Finally, they knew a definite date.

“It’s been a lot of last-minute changes,” Stephanie Masso said. “But the school and Ms. Spellings have been so flexible. He had this project due (the timeline) so things just worked out. We wanted to give Pedro something he’d never forget.”

Pedro Masso Sr. had actually returned to Crestview the day before, but Pedro Jr. had spent the night at a buddy’s house. Eager as he was to see his eldest son, Pedro Senior agreed to preserve the surprise he and his wife had planned, and he enjoyed reuniting with Stephanie and their younger children, Alex, 3, and Cecilia, 1.

“Every opportunity he’s had, he’s always asked for my presence,” Pedro Masso Sr. said as Pedro Jr. and his classmates dug into a “welcome home” cookie cake after the joyous reunion. “Finally, I was able to be here and grant him his wish.”

As Pedro Jr. clung to his father’s neck, Walker Principal Jeanine Kirkland presented the sergeant with a balloon bouquet.

“Welcome home, Sergeant,” Kirkland said. “We appreciate everything you do for our country.”

Asked what he planned to do with his dad, Pedro Jr. said, “Play with him and ride our dirt bikes.”

“Being at home now, you take into consideration how important it is to be home and with your family and to spend time with them,” Pedro Sr. said.

As Pedro Jr. would later attest, his dad’s unexpected return was, “awesome!”