A Southington father who is now home from his fourth tour of duty overseas pulled off the ultimate surprise for his daughter Monday morning.
Staff Sgt. Mike Howes is in the Army Reserves in Danbury, and said he has been keeping in touch with family via Skype. He said he has been in Connecticut since Saturday, but to keep the surprise he stayed in a hotel.
On Monday morning Howes surprised his 8-year-old daughter Maddie at Flanders Elementary School.
"It was very hard," said Mike Howes. "Couldn't post anything on Facebook because of the location tag, so I almost gave away the surprise that way."
Mike Howes was revealed as Maddie's partner for reading day. Once she realized her partner was her dad, she ran over and hugged him.
"I didn't want him to leave because I love him so much," said Maddie Howes.
Howes served for 11 months in Djbouti, Africa. There's no word on when or if Howes will need to go on another deployment.
Serving the country for the last 13 years, and with deployments to Kosovo, Iraq and now Africa, Howes knows all about the hardships of a military life.
"Madison and I are thick as thieves and that was the toughest part," said Mike Howes.
Howes's second daughter got the same surprise at her Southington High School just before Maddie's. Howes said their beaming faces make up for all the lost moments and memories.
"It's my fourth deployment and it was the first time I got to surprise the girls like this and it was absolutely worth it," said Mike Howes.
Thousands of locals are still overseas and Howes has a message for them and their families. He says hang tough, and keep thinking about that reunion.
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