HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (KTHV) — A Hot Springs father returned home to his kids after he was deployment for over 10 months.
Sergeant First Class Christopher Howard has been away from his kids for almost an entire year while he was stationed in Africa. Friday night his wife Arianne helped him give their children a surprise they will never forget.
Isaiah and his siblings were not expecting their dad to come home until Wednesday. But his dad decided to surprise him while Isaiah carried the flag during the national anthem at a basketball game.
"Happy to be home. Very, very happy to be home,” Howard said. "This is the longest they've ever had to endure. For them, this is an eternity. When you're gone that long, a year of your dad being gone, that's a good fraction of their life right there."
Mom, Arianne Howard, felt the kids deserved a surprise. The couple have four kids together: Isaiah, 12, Elysiah, 9, and twins, Micah and Malia.
"For a whole year it's building up. For a whole year you anticipate this moment, and watching your kids see their dad, it's emotional,” Arianne said. "I saw it from their eyes the whole time he was gone, how they missed their dad. The moments. Birthdays and Easter, things that he missed.”
Sgt. Howard said the biggest sacrifice all soldiers and their families have to make is at home.
“Although [my wife] knew she was marrying a soldier, neither one of us knew I'd be doing it 18 years later. But she's having to carry on the role of mom and dad and husband and wife,” Sgt. Howard said. “We know what the sacrifices are going in as soldiers. We know that we’re going to have to go away.”
Arianne said when she first saw Christopher when he stepped off the plane Friday, she felt complete again.
“Nothing in my life felt right. My house wasn’t right. Everything was just off. And as soon as I saw him, I was running as fast as I could,” she said. “Everything was just right again. It just felt right.”
The couple had been planning this surprise for four months.
"I've been watching the videos of these soldiers coming home and my allergies always kick in when I watch those videos, and I always wanted to do that,” Sgt. Howard said.
"He's home now. They hug him. They get to touch him, they talk to him,” Arianne said.
Sgt. Howard has the next month off and he said he plans to spend it with his family, hunting and watching lots of movies.