MANHATTAN, Kan. (WIBW) -- The Young children had no idea what was in store for them Tuesday night.
They thought they were going to a banquet at Kansas State University's Student Union Ballroom and then to see a performance of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast at McCain Auditorium. John Thomas, 10, Georgia, 8, and Steven, 6, were all dressed in red for the big night.
Little did they know that they were the main event and about to experience something they’d never forget.
They were brought up to the front of the banquet for a picture.
Around the corner was their father, Major Bill Young, a Fort Riley soldier who managed to make it home from Afghanistan to surprise his unsuspecting kids. When they looked up and saw him standing there, Young's three children ran into his arms.
"It was exciting and a little emotional not knowing how they were going to react. I hadn’t seen them in about nine months so it was more of what their reaction was going to be. All I had to do what just show up. I don’t think it really hit them at first. It took them about maybe five seconds or so to realize what was going on," Major Young said.
The Youngs will be together for Christmas before Major Young has to head back to Afghanistan to finish out his deployment.
”We’re going to stay home. We’re going to enjoy being at home. Just enjoying spending time with the family and enjoy our time together," the Youngs told WIBW.
But some payback might be in store for Major Young for keeping his kids in the dark about his secret homecoming.
"I’m going to enjoy having him because when we have Christmas, I’m going to prank him," 8-year-old Georgia said.
"It’s great to see the community reach out to the military families, especially this time of year. A lot of people don’t get the opportunity to come home for the holidays. We were lucky enough to have that and it was great to have the community reach out to us. We’re very thankful for that opportunity," Major Young added.
Briana Nelson Goff, the director of K-State's Institute for the Health and Security of Military Families, helped arrange the reunion along with Todd Holmberg, director of McCain Auditorium.
"This was something that just touched everybody. We've been trying to keep it a secret. There have just been a handful of people that knew about it. Just having this opportunity at the holidays and especially for a military family who sacrifices so much, to come together and just be able to surprise the kids- it's been a wonderful experience. It was just a miracle, really," Nelson Goff told 13 News.
K-State and sponsors Briggs Auto and the Little Apple Optimist Club also made it possible for 40 members of military families to attend the ball and sold-out show Tuesday night at no expense.