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Air Force dad surprises son after months long deployment

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    PORT ORANGE, FL (WESH) — Spruce Creek Elementary School students, including 9-year-old Bentley Purdue, thought they were gathered in the courtyard for the school’s teacher of the year announcement.

Instead, Purdue got a surprise in the form of his stepdad, Air Force Staff Sgt. Justin Merrick.

“I thought a teacher was going to come out. I didn’t think my dad was going to come out and run and come and give me a hug,” Purdue said. “When he came out, I was, like, ‘That’s my dad.'”

There were cheers and tears as the two embraced.

Purdue’s mother, Lauren, with his baby brother, Everett, were in on the surprise.

Merrick has been in the Middle East for four months. He almost missed the surprise because of a delay in Spain on an airlift home.

“It’s been in the works for a while, so to be able to pull it off is fantastic. I’ve been weeping on the plane just thinking of this,” Merrick said.

Purdue said he was just talking about his stepdad and wondering when the family would finally be together again.

“All I think about is him, like, coming home eventually and playing baseball with me in my yard,” Purdue said.

Merrick said deployment is tough, but military men and women soldier through, though it’s toughest on the loved ones.

“It’s a long, grueling time, so it’s really great to be back home with them,” Merrick said.

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