Students at West Lauderdale Elementary School Tuesday got the surprise of their young lives.
Their father, who has been deployed for the last five months in Iraq, returned home late Monday.
Senior Master Sgt. James Bunyard, a firefighter with the 186th Air Refueling Wing, waited to surprise them at school and they were obviously delighted to see him.
His daughter, Gracie, was speechless, while his son, Branson, couldn't wait to give dad a big hug. The youngest is in pre-school.
Bunyard has been working in Baghdad as the fire chief at the busiest airport in the city. And while he is he proud of his work, he is even happier to be home.
"Knowing that you are finally home you are out of harm's way, you are back home with your family. You've got four months to make up," said Bunyard. "Missed a lot of holidays, anniversaries, birthdays. You can't replace those. But you have to carry on with what you have got."
His wife, Heather, says she feels like a weight has been lifted off her shoulders. Her husband, she says, is the family's rock.
"I just wanted to drop to my knees and thank the good Lord that he brought him back home to us, because he's our rock; he is our everything and without him it just wasn't home," said Heather.
Branson, who is in third grade, is still surprised that his father actually slept in their house late Monday night without the children knowing.
"Yes I was surprised. I could have probably heard him snoring if they hadn't closed the door," he said.
For the next two weeks the family plans to spend as much time together as possible.
Bunyard says his kids have been extremely strong while he's been gone.