Just in time for Father's Day, an Oklahoma soldier is back on the homefront, and his homecoming came with a special surprise for his son and daughter.
Emily and Jason Denning went to the Tulsa Zoo Friday for a scavenger hunt, but they had no idea their last clue would send them straight into their daddy's arms.
There were tears of joy when Sergeant First Class Eric Denning and his two children saw each other for the first time in eight months.
"I told you I was coming home," Denning told his son and daughter as they cried while wrapping their arms around his neck.
The cries quickly turned to smiles, but even after countless hugs and lots of kisses, Emily and Jason still couldn't believe their eyes.
"You're home," Emily said gazing up to her father. "Yep, I'm home," Denning replied.
A room full of strangers at the zoon shared the surprise, although for Denning, the crowd faded instantly when his son and daughter ran into his arms.
"Priceless, better than I expected," Denning said. "I can't even describe it, there's no words that can."
Denning just returned home from an eight-month tour of duty in Kuwait; his fifth time overseas and away from his family.
"I'm glad he's fighting for us, but it's sad they make him go," Emily said.
Dressed in camo, just like his hero, it was the last gift Jason expected on his seventh birthday.
"I missed him," Jason said with tears streaming down his face.
Hugging Jason, his grandmother, Kim Oswald reassured him everything would be OK.
"I know you missed him, but he missed you so much more. It's OK, he's home for a while now," Oswald said.
The soldier is home just in time for Father's Day; the day Jason and Emily thought their dad was really landing in Oklahoma.
"I thought Sunday we were gonna come home, so I was like, ‘we're his present for Sunday,' but I guess not," Emily said. "I'm gonna have to find him something, I'm giving him $20."
When asked what the best present Jason could have ever had on his seventh birthday, the answer was obvious, "My dad."
Denning, who grew up in Hobart, Oklahoma, is stationed at Fort Sill. He hopes he'll be in Oklahoma for at least a year before being deployed again.