Skylar Johnson had not seen her father since last Christmas when she stepped on stage for her school's spelling bee on Friday.
So when the moderator asked the nine-year-old how to spell 'sergeant', she was overcome with emotion when he appeared from behind the curtain.
Staff Sergeant Therron Johnson and his little girl embraced for the first time in almost a year at Boca Raton Elementary in Florida.
An Avionics Line Supervisor with Charlie Company of the 1,111th Florida National Guard, Sergeant Johnson has been serving in Iraq for the past ten months.
CBS12 captured a video of the heartfelt moment, showing Skylar as she says the final 'T' into the mic in front of an auditorium of her classmates.
She's then asked if she knows any sergeants, and says sweetly: 'My dad.'
'Your dad? Wow, her dad is a sergeant,' her teacher told the class. 'That's kind of funny because today we have a very special sergeant here.'
A curtain opens behind her, revealing Sergeant Johnson dressed in his National Guard uniform.
The pair embrace as they blink back tears and he says to her: 'I love you baby! I love you so much!'
After the reunion, Skylar clung to her father and said she still had butterflies at the thought of seeing him again.
Sergeant Johnson presented the school with an American flag that flew over Iraq to thank it for its help in planning the reunion.
He said he had called school officials three weeks ago to let them know Skylar would be out of class for a few days while he was in town, and they wanted to make the reunion something special - so they planned the fake spelling bee.
'There are no words to explain how special this was,' he said. 'To have her whole class, everybody be a part of this, it was very, very special to me.'
Sergeant Johnson has nine days to spend with his family, including Skylar's tenth birthday, before he returns to Iraq.
For his daughter, this surprise was the best birthday gift she could imagine.
'I really hope he didn't get me a present, because this one, you can't beat it,' she said. 'Whatever he buys, he can't beat it.'