by: Erica Bryant Updated:
GRANITE FALLS, N.C. - When Petty Officer Henry Alderete first walked in to the class Thursday, it seemed every child noticed but his son.
When Andrew finally looked up, he reacted with stunned silence and then tears.
"You've gotten so big, almost as tall as me," Alderete said.
The surprise reunion at Granite Falls Middle School was an emotional highlight for the computer class.
Alderete is in the Navy. He just returned home from Afghanistan for holiday break after 414 days – 14 months – away from his wife, three sons and baby girl.
Alderete said hoping for this day kept him going.
"It's all I been thinking about since I left. I've wanted to come home," he said.
For Andrew, the timing was perfect to leave class early to catch up on quality time with Dad.
"I wasn't expecting it at all, just really bored and not wanting to do my PowerPoint," Andrew said.
It's the gift many military families want this Christmas – to have loved ones who are serving to come back safe and sound.
"I miss my kids. I hate being gone. Everything that's important to me is right here," Alderete said.