The Surprise Homecoming

Mrs. Ruffin's third-graders never saw it coming. Especially one of them.

Navy Sr. Chief Terry Doss was heading their way, to surprise his daughter Terian, reports CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann.

"I'm pretty full, choked up, so," Doss said. "Just ready to get in there and hug her."

They haven't seen each other since Christmas. And Terian thinks her father's still in Iraq.

Not any more. She squealed with delight when he walks into her classroom.

"Oh, he's here early!" the teacher said.

This is one family reunion everyone can celebrate.

"Oh God, I felt like I was about to cry," Terian said. "I'm really surprised. I'm so happy my daddy's here."

Something else surprised Terian's classmates - their understanding of patriotism and its sacrifice.

When this sailor came home, its meaning hit home.

Terian read him her latest letter. All he heard was how much he missed her.

"I miss you. My teacher can't wait to see you," it read. "My class wants to thank you for protecting our country. I can't wait to see you and give you a big fat hug and kiss."

Doss heads back to Iraq next week.

But until then, no little girl will feel more safe - or more loved.

  • Mark Strassmann

    Mark Strassmann has been a CBS News correspondent since January 2001 and is based in the Atlanta bureau.