MURRIETA (CBSLA.com) — A local Marine dad gave his two children the surprise of their young lives Thursday.
Marine Gunnery Sgt. Ronald Clement was not expected to be home from a five-month deployment in Afghanistan for another six weeks, but when the military father arrived home early he used the opportunity to surprise his son and daughter at school.
CBS2's Tom Wait reports Jayda Clement, a student at Shivela Middle School in Murrieta, walked toward the stage expecting the principal to deliver her honor roll certificate.
Instead, she found her dad waiting with open arms, telling her, "I'm so proud of you."
The father and daughter were overcome with emotion.
"You're making me cry, stop," he told her.
The school's principal, the district and family worked hard to keep the secret to make sure the moment was possible.
Sgt. Clement admitted he was nervous about his daughter's reaction, but Jayda couldn't have been more thrilled.
"I was contemplating her reaction. I was like, 'I hope she hugs me at least. I hope she doesn't break down too embarrassed,'" he recalled.
"I'm just happy," Jayda said.
Not long after, it was time to surprise his son, who ran to his dad in shock when the Marine surprised him in class.
"I missed you so much, buddy. I'm so proud of you," he said.
Elijah admitted he had no idea his father was coming home so soon, and welled up with tears.
"I thought I might maybe talk to him on Skype," he said.
Clement was also reunited earlier with his wife, Renee, who was fighting back tears as she recorded the reunions with their children.
"I was videotaping with one eye watering, one eye trying to keep an eye on what was going on on stage," she said.
The Clements now get to cherish their time together and say they will relish these moments forever.
"It's my number one value, is family, definitely being reunited with them is - it's everything, it really is," Sgt. Clement said.
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