KAYSVILLE, Utah — A Utah military dad gave his kids the surprise of a lifetime Tuesday: an unexpected homecoming celebration for each of them.
“Is he coming?” Capt. Trent Sanders asked a woman as he waited patiently on a front lawn.
The moment is unmistakable. Army green from head to toe, a star-spangled sign welcoming home a patriot, and anxious hands waiting for a moment a year in the making.
“I’m super excited to see my 5-year-old,” Sanders said.
Tuesday marks the first time U.S. Army Reserve Capt. Trent Sanders has stepped foot on American soil since April of 2019.
“I was stationed at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait,” Sanders said.
This is the second time Trent has served overseas, the first time taking place during the onset of the war in Iraq — before he had kids.
“You settle into a daily rhythm and a work schedule and that’s when it starts to hit home -- that you’re missing friends, family, kids… you’re missing life.”
The time away took a toll on Trent’s relationship with his 5-year-old son, Ayden, who was just four when he left.
“Ayden had separation problems where he didn’t want to talk to me on the phone for several months,” Trent said. “He’s had a hard time; he doesn’t talk to me much.”
Any anxiousness melted away the second Trent saw his son.
“Ayden! It’s daddy!” Trent shouted across the lawn.
“I’ve missed you,” Trent said as he embraced Ayden. “I’ve missed you,” Ayden replied.
“You’re so big! Can I have a kiss?” Trent said as he kissed his son’s head.
Trent and Ayden continued to hold each other, soaking up every minute.
But what do you do when you have more than one kid?
For this military dad that answer was simple, you make another stop.
“We’re going to go surprise your sisters now, just like that, you want to go with me?” Trent asked Ayden as he carried him down the street.
“I’m not going to ask you to write down answers just from your own head,” a teacher at Fairfield Junior High said as he started his lesson plan when an unexpected guest walked in donning full military attire.
It didn’t take long before Trent caught the eye of his 13-year-old daughter, Taylin.
Taylin jumped out of her seat and hugged her dad, tears welling in her eyes.
The class applauded and Taylin joined the homecoming caravan, en route to a building next door, Creekside Elementary.
His youngest daughter, 9-year-old Breklyn, had just gotten back from recess when her dad stepped through the classroom doors.
A few seconds later, Breklyn jumped out of her seat and jumped into her dad’s arms.
“Breklyn, do you want to introduce us?” Her teacher asked after a round of applause.
“This is my dad and he just got back from his long trip,” she said aloud, holding back tears.
The moments created by a reunion, can never truly be put into words.
“What do we say for his service for our country?” Breklyn’s teacher asked her third grade class.
“Thank you!” the room of 9-year-olds replied in unison.
The final stop on the welcome wagon, brought an end to Trent’s 7,418-mile journey – with a lifetime to catch up, still ahead.
“Each one needed to be shown that I love them, individually,” Trent said.
“Just being home and not seeing them, it still didn’t feel like the entire deployment was complete,” he continued. “Knowing that I spent the time with all of my kids and saw them… I’m home.”
Trent said now that he is home, he doesn’t plan on leaving again anytime soon. The first family activity will be a trip to Hurricane, Utah to see his parents.