Air Force Sergeant Wil Alteus Surprises His Daughter with His Early Return

Soldier Surprises Daughter with Early Return from Duty
Lyrique and her father, Sgt. Will Alteus

04/06/2014 AT 10:45 AM EDT

Nothing tugs at the heartstrings more than seeing a soldier reunited with his or her family – especially when that soldier is a single father surprising his daughter with an early return home.

Such was the case Friday in Mount Dora, Fla.

Air Force Sergeant Wil Alteus was residing as a single father in New Jersey when he was called overseas to active duty last August. He decided to send his daughter Lyrique to live with his sister Kinley in Florida.

When his time overseas was extended, Lyrique and Kinley were unsure of when exactly Sgt. Alteus would be home. Then, Friday morning, Lyrique was given the surprise of a lifetime.



At Mount Dora Bible School, a group of students, including Lyrique, were chosen to play a word game, which ultimately spelled out the phrase "Lyrique's Dad is Home." When she turned around, the startled second grader was overjoyed to see her father, and immediately ran into his arms.

Lyrique was in good hands while her father was overseas. "Part of our mission is service to families and children. Many parents rely on us to be their child's family when they are away," Nicole Cardoso, director of public relations for Mount Dora Bible School, tells PEOPLE.

Of all those involved, Aunt Kinley – who knew Wil could return soon but had no idea it would be Friday – may have shed the most tears after seeing Lyrique's joy.

"My brother wanted to make this special for Lyrique because it was so hard leaving her for those months ... it was a huge surprise for both of us!" she said.

And in the hours since the heartwarming reunion with her father, Kinley says Lyrique, "Doesn't want to let him go!"

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