Navy Commander Tony Erickson tried to stay calm but admitted his heart was pounding with excitement the Pleasant Grove father of four has been serving in Afghanistan for the past seven months. On Thursday, the soldier surprised his two youngest at Timberline Middle School.
First up was Erickson’s 14-year-old daughter Katelyn. The 8th grader doesn’t even notice her father standing at the front of the room until he called her by name.
Katelyn said the last seven months have been quiet without her dad around. The family has been skyping and talking over the phone, but there’s no question the naval commander was missed.
“Let’s go do this to Ethan,” said Erickson to his daughter.
More tears and hugs in the hallway as the father and daughter head to 12-year-old Ethan’s math class just down the hall. The young football player almost takes the commander down. Ethan tells us he’s missed having his dad at his sporting events.
“He missed the first two games, which were blowouts. A little embarrassing for the other team,” Ethan said.
Erickson has served since 1988, but has been on reserve for the navy since the kids were small.
“It was challenging for me especially. They had a lot of activities going on,” Erickson said.
“It’s harder. We didn’t really realize it before when he was gone because we were so young,” said Katelyn. “But now you know who’s gone and who’s there.”
The father enjoys some cafeteria food with the pair before heading over to surprise the two older siblings at Lone Peak High School.
“I’m looking forward to getting back into the sync of things all their activities and stuff,” Erickson said. “It will be fun, really fun.”