CHESAPEAKE, Va. - Like any normal Wednesday at Crestwood Intermediate in Chesapeake, 9-year-old Joellie Campbell lined up for recess.
As she stood behind her peers and walked down the hallway, she had no idea that someone very special was waiting for her outside.
LS1 Gabriel Klotz, crouched behind cars in the parking lot anticipating the moment Joellie walked outside. Klotz returned from an 8-month Navy deployment Wednesday morning and his first stop was at Crestwood Intermediate.
While Klotz isn't Joellie's biological father, they are part of a loving, blended family. He said he couldn't wait to see her upon his return to the states.
"Nah, I'm not nervous at all. I just want to see what her reaction is," he said. "I just don't want her to see me [yet]."
Walking out to the basketball court, Joellie didn't seem too suspicious, but her teachers created a good distraction. Her back was turned when Klotz arrived and greeted her with, "Baby girl!"
Surprised, the 9-year-old jumped into his arms, culminating a reunion some-243 days in the making.
"I missed you so much," Klotz said.
Joellie's mom, Ashley, said the deployments have been tough.
"I think for anyone her age or anyone younger, even her brothers, trying to explain the concept of time is difficult because every single day they're always asking, 'When is he coming home? When is he coming home?'" Ashley said.
On Wednesday they got their answer.
"I think the first thing she said is, 'I miss and I love you,' and that was enough to bring a smile to my face," Klotz said.
As Klotz soaked up the love, he offered this advice to other military families. "Just be willing to communicate. You're going to face challenges, you're going to face adversity, but be willing to communicate and be objective when you're talking."