An Austin soldier came home early from Afghanistan and surprised his son at school.
Army Specialist Ryan Stine got the news he'd be coming home early a week ago. It just so happened that his new arrival date was when his oldest son's school had a Veteran's Day play scheduled. The parents couldn't resist the opportunity.
As students at Pond Springs Elementary in Northwest Austin sang patriotic songs about freedom and our soldiers for their Veteran's Day play, first grader Connor Stine watched from the audience maybe thinking about his dad serving in Afghanistan.
At the end the music teacher asked veterans in the audience to please stand. A surprise guest appeared on stage. Connor's face lit up. It was his dad, Army Specialist Ryan Stine.
Stine deployed out of Camp Mabry last November.
When he left, Connor was six and his younger son Pierce was two and a half months old.
"I felt happy and really excited, really excited," said Connor of his dad's surprise.
Stine wasn't expected to return until Thanksgiving, but he got to leave early. Mom and dad did a good job keeping this day a secret.
"I had no idea," Connor said.
"It was very hard, especially this morning. I was this close to blowing it," said mom Blair Stine.
The family used Skype to talk with one another throughout the year. Still, the boys have a lot of catching up to do.
It will be an extra special Veteran's Day this Sunday for the family.
"If you see a soldier just give him a thank you. Sometimes that little simple thank you we appreciate what you're doing helps out a lot," Stine said.