U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Daniel Von Kanel, 36, was given a hero’s welcome Dec. 8 following a surprise visit he made to his four children at a Zachary school.

The homecoming surprise was orchestrated by Rollins Place Principal Jennifer Marangos and Von Kanel’s wife, Cathryn, who works in administration as a school clerk.

The two women kept secret the fact that Von Kanel had returned to the United States on Nov. 27 from a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan and was waiting to surprise the couple’s two youngest children, Bryce, a first-grader, and Keira, a second-grader, at Rollins Place, along with siblings Kaylie, 14, and Blake, 12.

Both of the older Von Kanel children believed they were the recipients of awards from their younger siblings and had been asked to attend an awards ceremony at Rollins Place.

During the ceremony, Marangos received a “phone call” from Cathryn saying she and her husband were on the premises and that he was home from Afghanistan.

The Von Kanel children were on stage when their father came from behind a partition to surprise them in front of the Rollins Place student body and faculty as well as district leaders and media.

“We were very shocked to see him; we had no idea he was home,” said Blake and Kayli, students at Northwestern Middle and Zachary High respectively.

Following the family’s emotional reunion, students and teachers began chanting “USA, USA” as the Von Kanels walked the hallways lined with students and teachers waving American flags.

Von Kanel, who deployed in March with his Army unit, said the fanfare surrounding his homecoming with his children means a lot.

“I was really nervous trying to keep all these emotions in check when I saw them. I’ve missed them a lot,” Von Kanel said.

When asked what he’s missed most while being away, Von Kanel replied “everything.” “I miss having us all together, so we’ll probably stay up late tonight,” Von Kanel said, who admitted thinking this may be his last deployment.