TAMPA (FOX 13) - It was a very special, emotional, and tearful homecoming for a soldier returning from Afghanistan for the holidays when he surprised his family at an elementary school in Tampa.
The stage was set at Mort Elementary School early Friday morning. The students gathered for the morning announcements at their weekly pep rally, and little Genesis Cruz, who was going to receive the surprise of her lifetime, was going to be called on to help the principal.
Her uncle Sgt. Ricardo Cruz, who has become a father figure to her, was going to be waiting in a wrapped present for her to unwrap it.
Sgt. Cruz was deployed to Afghanistan for eight months and was not expected to return home until March. To add to his family's worry, his unit came under attack recently, and several of his fellow soldiers were wounded.
When it came time for the surprise, Genesis was called up in front of the school, and she unwrapped the present, unveiling her uncle, who had been waiting inside.
The tears were flowing as they embraced and the school cheered. Even Sgt. Cruz's father, who also served in the Army -- as did his father before him, was there for the surprise and had no idea.
The family says they are looking forward to going home to a good meal and above all, having fun together and enjoying each other for the holidays. "I wish that he could stay forever," Genesis offered.
WATCH THE HOMECOMING SURPRISE BELOW (mobile app users click here):