Brittany D. McClure
The Valdosta Daily Times
It was just a normal Monday morning for 4-year-old Carrina Kaluza. She woke up, got dressed and went to St. John Catholic School for a fun day of learning in Terri Joseph's Kindergarten class.
Joseph had balloons in the classroom.
“I told them it was just a happy day,” said Joseph when explaining how she handled curiosity about the balloons from a class of 3 and 4-year-olds.
It was indeed a happy day because as Carrina sat in a circle for story time with her classmates, her father Tim Kaluza was just outside in the hall, waiting to surprise her.
Master Sgt. Kaluza with the 824 BDS at Moody Air Force had been away from his family for eight months during a deployment to Afghanistan. This was only one of his several deployments.
“Too many to count, I couldn't even tell you,” said Kaluza.
His wife Ashely Kaluza was able to see him on Saturday, but for Carrina, 6-year-old Savannah and 20 month old Alaina, Monday was the first day in eight months that they have seen their dad in person and not just on a computer screen during Skype sessions.
“We've Skyped from time to time,” said Ashley.
However, based off Carrina's reaction to her father's return, nothing is like having your loved one safe at home.
Carrina sat quietly, listening to Joseph read a story about Clifford the Big Red Dog. First, Ashley walked in with Alaina in her arms.
“Mommy!” Carrina squealed in excitement.
Carrina ran to her mother and wrapped her arms around her legs. Ashley pointed Carrina back to her seat in the reading circle. Like most 4-year-olds, Carrina was once again consumed by the antics of Clifford.
Carrina pulled a seat up for Alaina to sit in and there she sat, with no idea that her dad was just feet away.
Kaluza slowly walked in the door with a bouquet of rainbow flowers in hand. Carrina turned her head towards the door, and with a reaction time of about a second, immediately jumped out of her seat.
"Daddy!" Carrina yelled with excitement and surprise.
Carrina ran to Kaluza and leaped on him, holding him tight. Alaina ran to join them and Kaluza held the girls, one on each hip as Carrina giggled and smiled.
Joseph had cupcakes ready, knowing that Monday would be a time to celebrate. Carrina showed her dad to a seat right next to her.
"He was sneaking in," said Carrina as she began to tell the story of her special surprise while eating little, pink cupcakes.
"What did your dad bring you?" The Times asked.
"Flowers!" Carrina yelled.
"What are you going to do now that your dad is home?" asked the Times.
"Um, hug him!" Carrina said as she smiled at her dad.
According to Kaluza, words couldn't express what he felt as his little girl jumped into his arms.
"I can't verbally explain it," said Kaluza.
Ashley, visually emotional with tears in her eyes, had just witnessed the very day she had been counting down to.
"We all have missed him a lot," said Ashley.
Later that afternoon, Kaluza went to Pine Grove Elementary School where he surprised his oldest daughter Savannah.
“It hasn’t quite hit her yet,” said Ashley of Savannah’s surprise.
According to Ashley, she stood there for a bit, took in his face and then realized he was at last home.
“She ran up to him and gave him a hug,” said Ashley.