LEWISVILLE — For nearly seven months, 8-year-old Kadyn and 6-year-old Addisyn Haskins have awaited their father’s return home from a military deployment to the Middle East.
A calendar at home with a heart around the 10th signified the day their father, Dekendrick Haskins, a senior airman in the U.S. Air Force, was to arrive home. But the day the two girls have waited for came early.
Haskins returned home to surprise them Monday. During an assembly on responsibility at Southridge Elementary School, he was revealed as a special guest.
As the curtain on the stage in the school’s cafeteria was pulled back to reveal their father dressed in military fatigues, the girls — who were sitting in front — got to their feet and tightly embraced him.
The girls’ feet lifted from the ground as he picked them up in an embrace. Kadyn, a third-grader, wiped away tears and held onto her father as classmates applauded.
“I got surprised. I thought he wasn’t coming on the 10th,” Kadyn said. “I’ve ... marked it all over the calendar. Now I have to erase it. I started crying. It was kind of like a miracle.”
Addisyn, a kindergartner, said seeing her dad made her happy.
Haskins said that to walk from behind the stage curtain and see his daughters after several months, left him speechless. The months away have been hard, he said, because he had never been away from his family for more than two months.
They’ve communicated through Skype, Haskins said, but it’s not the same.
“I was nervous standing back there waiting and waiting,” he said. “I was excited, just happy to see them. I actually wanted to jump off the stage and run to them. I just wanted to hold them.”
The first words he said he shared with his daughters was that he was home, he missed them and that he loved them.
Only one word could describe the surprise, said the girls’ mother and Haskins’ wife, Rulandra.
“Priceless,” she said.
It was emotional, and Rulandra Haskins said she fought back tears. It was everything she hoped for.
“We were all teary-eyed,” she said. “I cannot take my eyes off him.”
She said the family had to adjust when her husband was deployed last April. They’ve kept in touch through various social media avenues and have waited for his return home.
Other students attending Monday’s assembly were also excited about Dekendrick Haskins’ return home.
In brief remarks to students attending Monday’s assembly on responsibility, he shared with students that being in the military, he had to be responsible for his fellow airmen. He encouraged students also to be responsible.
“You guys have to be responsible, as well, to make your parents proud and to make your teachers proud, OK?” he said.
Haskins also communicated with the students via Skype during his deployment, sharing with them how he was working to keep them safe.
Prior to being deployed, he served as “Top DOG” and trained volunteers for the school’s WATCH DOGS. (Dads of Great Students) group, a volunteer-based program in which fathers and father figures serve as role models and enhance security on campus.
Timi Winter, the school’s program coordinator, said Dekendrick Haskins is somewhat a “rock star” on campus.
It was evident by the number of students swarming the airman for a high five as they exited the assembly. He told students Monday he intends to return as a volunteer in the program this school year.
Winter said Dekendrick Haskins takes advantage of teachable moments with students. He’s taught boys at the school to give firm handshakes, and he searches for students who are not as confident to encourage them and build their confidence.
“I’m thrilled that he’s back,” Winter said.
BRITNEY TABOR can be reached at 940-566-6876 and via Twitter at @BritneyTabor.