WALNUT, Calif. (KABC) -- It's music class at Suzanne Middle School in Walnut. And the song of choice... one of the first odes to our nation... was all of the patriotism most of these students were expecting for the day.
Seventh-grader Hunter and his younger siblings Kailani and Raiden have spent the past six months without their dad, U.S. Army Capt. Rodney Reed. Since he was deployed, parenting has become a second full-time job for their mom.
"Mom would have to rush to all these places since we have so many events going on right now, like karate, scouts," said Hunter.
And they did it all really without two "members" of the family. When dad left, he brought with him this floppy little thing full of stuffing and memories, named puppy dog.
"Sometimes it'd be in the pouch, sometimes I'd have to stuff it as I was running to the helicopter my IOTV," said Capt. Reed. "I popped it out every now and then and people would laugh you know, what am I doing, they thought it was great."
Photos showing moments of levity were just the kinds of updates the Reed family needed. At least, until they got the real thing.
Kailani and Raiden thought they were preparing for a math test. But then they got the best surprise. They unwrapped... puppy dog. And then they realized dad must be close by.
"I was confused because I thought he was sending it home like he was done with it," said Raiden.
"When I saw this, I thought of my dad, and then when I saw him I didn't really know what to do," said Kailani.
Neither did Hunter when it was his turn to be surprised by dad during music class. He and his classmates put down their instruments after playing the notes, and picked up a lesson in family.