Ozark, Al (WSFA) -- Fifth grade students at Ozark's Joseph Lisenby Elementary thought they were preparing for their play Thursday afternoon. It seemed that way at first.
Actually they were there to welcome home a special guest.
Mason Patterson hasn't seen her dad in nine months.
He's on active deployment in Iraq, so it was quite the surprise when he showed up at school.
"It was really really amazing," said Mason.
Mason talks to her dad online as much as she can. Occasionally it's a phone call.
Now that he's home, she doesn't want to let him go.
"I just want to give him a really really big hug," said Mason. "She's about the only one that can make me cry, she's doing it," said Mason's father, Sergeant First Class Terry Patterson.
All this was a shock for Terry too. He had no idea this was happening when he got off his plane.
"It was a surprise for me too. I think we're all heartfelt, and I appreciate the school for doing it," said Terry.
Mason's mom, Samantha, had trouble holding back tears when she saw Mason and Terry reunite.
It's been a tough nine months, Mason and her dad are very close.
"She and her dad are two peas in a pod," said Samantha. "So the past nine months, plus the three months prior to the deployment when he was in Washington state was very troubling and hard for her."
The Pattersons' excitement does not stop there. After surprising ten year old Mason they packed up and headed over to Carroll High school where they have another daughter 15 year old Kimberly.
Mason's dad will head back to Iraq for five to six months before he returns for good.
SFC. Patterson plans to retire after 20 years in the Army.