Deployed Dad Surprises Entire Family at Daughter's Graduation (VIDEO)

updated 05/28/2014 at 03:00 PM EDT

originally published 05/28/2014 01:30PM

Chris Crafton has been serving his final deployment with the U.S. Air Force in Cuba for the past few months, so his family was prepared for his absence from his daughter Taylor's high school graduation.

In fact, "prepared" is an understatement: They even had a cardboard cutout of Crafton that they propped up in the crowd during the ceremony.

Chris had a trick up his own sleeve, though: He was able to return from his deployment in time for Taylor's graduation in Grand Forks, North Dakota, though he declined to tell anyone in the family – not even his wife – which makes all the reactions in this video that much more touching.

"He's here": An announcement from the ceremony's MC was the only thing that signaled Crafton's arrival – he jogged onstage and embraced Taylor, saying, "I told you, don't give up on your dad."



Crafton has been deployed for – by his own count – 1,782 days. "I've missed a lot – you know, birthdays, Christmas, that kind of thing," Crafton told Grand Forks KHON news. "So I just tried my best to get here for when she graduated. This is my last deployment so I had to make it happen."

"These are just things that you see on YouTube or on TV, it's nothing that really happens to people that you know, so it's just the best feeling in the world," Crafton's wife Paige said.

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