CLEARWATER, Fla. — Ten-year-old Cailani Martinez is a fifth-grader at McMullen-Booth Elementary School. She was on stage in her school's auditorium Tuesday morning, ready to talk to her classmates about the importance of Veterans Day.
Little did she know, she was about to get a surprise from her favorite soldier.
Cailani's dad and 10-year Army servicemember, Cedric Goins, has been deployed to Syria for the last nine months.
When he found out his trip home was happening much earlier than expected, he knew exactly what to do to make his visit memorable.
While Cailani was on stage, her dad was hiding in a room backstage before coming out to surprise her.
"Just to see the smile on her face. That's why I'm here. I know she misses me and I miss her, so that's the most exciting thing right now," Cedric said before the big surprise.
"My heart is racing right now 'cause that's my baby girl."
The moment Cedric walked out, Cailani's jaw dropped before she ran over and jumped into her dad's arms. Her classmates cheered as the two embraced.
"I was really nervous [giving my speech], and then I got super happy to see him because it's been a long time," Cailani said.
"The hardest thing was just being away, missing birthdays and first days of school and sharing exciting moments about report cards, Cedric said.
The two will get to spend just one day together before Cedric flys to Fort Bragg in North Carolina Wednesday morning.