Soldier surprises daughter competing in spelling bee

BOCA RATON, FL (WPTV/NBC) - A soldier returning from serving in Iraq surprised his daughter while she was competing in a school spelling bee.

When Sylar Johnson, 9, attempted to spell the word "sergeant" on stage, the curtains parted behind her. Her father, Staff Sgt. Therron Johnson, walked out.

Having not seen her father since Christmas, Skylar couldn't believe he was standing in front of her.

"I was like, 'Is this a dream?'" Skylar said. "Because I was about ready to close my eyes, and go back to sleep and wake up again."

Father and daughter, happy to be reunited after many months apart, let the tears flow.

"I was doing everything I could not to cry," Johnson said. "I kind of hesitated for her to turn around, and she ran at me two to three steps. And I just hugged her, and told her I loved her."

To thank the students for their support and their help, Johnson presented the school with an American flag that flew over Iraq in Operation New Dawn.

"There are no words to explain how special this was," Johnson said. "To have her whole class, everybody be a part of this, it was very, very special to me."

Skylar and her father went on to surprise her brother, Christian, at Don Estridge Middle School.

The staff sergeant has nine days to spend with his family, including some time at Disney World, before he goes back to Iraq.

Skylar will celebrate her tenth birthday on Monday. She says she's already gotten exactly what she wanted.

"I really hope he didn't get me a present, because this one, you can't beat it," Skylar said. "Whatever he buys, he can't beat it."

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