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Veteran returns home, surprises 10-year-old son at school

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Veteran returns home, surprises 10-year-old son at school

By Jesse Ritka. CREATED Nov 11, 2013 - UPDATED: Nov 11, 2013

BROOKFIELD - This is a day we honor those who serve and have given so much for our country, but one veteran didn't stop giving back, even after retirement.

"What does Veterans Day mean to you?" TODAY’S TMJ4’s Jesse Ritka asked 10-year-old Julian Jones.  The Dixon Elementary School fifth grader had an answer different than most.

"Well it means a lot to me because my dad's just coming home from Afghanistan today. So I'm pretty excited."

But Julian didn't know just how soon he would see his father after a three-month absence in Afghanistan.  Kent Jones, Julian’s dad, walked into his classroom to give him a heartfelt homecoming surprise.  Nearly in a state of shock, Julian had to be reminded that he could get out of his desk by his teacher.  After a long embrace, Kent introduced himself to Julian’s classmates, thrilled at the stunt he and his wife, Tina, had pulled off.

“I think he was really shocked when I saw his face.  The timing could not have been more perfect, it was a great opportunity for me to come home and surprise my son but also to be here today on Veteran's Day.”

Julian admits he thought he wouldn't see his dad for several more hours, “I didn't know he was coming!"

Kent retired from the Army Special Forces after 22 years of service, but he’s spent the last two years between the states and Afghanistan as a consultant to the US military and coalition forces, “I very much felt like I was in a position to save younger lives, save an earlier generation than mine, I did return to the war, but it was for a good reason, and I firmly believe that, giving back.”

But on a day meant to honor him, Kent can’t stop giving back.  Giving his son an early homecoming surprise, reading Eve Bunting’s “The Wall” to Julian’s fellow fifth graders, answering questions and teaching life lessons in a safe setting.  Hoping his message is taken to heart by the young listeners, "Soldiers have lost their lives to ensure that you have the opportunities to grow, develop and become very giving and responsible adults.  Don't ever take for granted the opportunities that have been guarded and promised for you, so each of us, myself and others want to make sure that you have a solid and strong future.”

A future that for some, may include following in his footsteps.  Julian says that may include him someday, but he knows one thing for sure: his dad is his hero.  A statement that Kent hadn't heard until today, “I did not know that, but I'm certainly glad to hear that because he's my hero, he is my hero."

Jesse Ritka

Jesse Ritka

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Jesse Ritka joined TODAY’S TMJ4 and Storm Team 4 in February 2011 as the “Live at Daybreak” weekend meteorologist. Growing up in Prior Lake, Minnesota, Jesse has always been fascinated by storms.