Soldier surprises daughter at Challenger Elementary - WSFA.com: News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

Soldier surprises daughter at Challenger Elementary

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Nalani hadn't seen her father in over four months and wasn't expecting to see him until Friday. Nalani hadn't seen her father in over four months and wasn't expecting to see him until Friday.
HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) -

Nalani Coates, 6 years old, thought it would be a normal day at school. Staff members at Challenger Elementary had a huge surprise in store for the kindergartner.

Her dad, David Coates, a U.S. Army service member came home a few days early to surprise her.

Nalani and her classmates are outside at the flag post calling for a soldier, but she doesn't realize it's her dad she's yelling for. When she realizes it's her father, she runs and gives him a huge hug.

Nalani hasn't seen him in over four months. She wasn't expecting to see him until Friday.

Her surprise left her in shock. The little girl is so stunned, she gives her mother a hug and then returns to sing a song with her class.

Coates said it's really tough to leave behind your family when you're in the service.

"It's really tough. It's one of those things that when you get to call home and you get to see how they're doing and it's like, 'Oh, we did this and we did that,' and you really wish you could be there," he said. "And I love serving my country, but the hardest part of any deployment of any kind of service of being away from home is being away from your children and your spouse."

The family, his wife, Carolina and their infant son, Donte, gather around to take pictures - something Coates said is priceless when you're seeing death every day.

He deals with detention operations in Iraq and frequently faces Taliban members.

"It just makes you really appreciate the freedoms that we have and seeing the poverty over there and seeing the ill effects of the war and being grateful that we have such a safe country here," Coates said.

Coates is stationed in Huntsville and doesn't have plans to leave anytime soon.

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