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Military dad surprises kids during reading time at school after 8 months away

Watch the heartwarming reunion when Navy Lt. Cmdr. James Prahl returned from deployment to surprise his two children at their elementary school.
/ Source: TODAY

When a special guest walked into the classroom in his elementary school, Jacob Prahl made sure to tap his little sister on the shoulder because she was going to want to see this.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. James Prahl surprised his children during reading time at Kenosha School of Technology Enhanced Curriculum in Wisconsin last week after spending the last eight months deployed in Afghanistan.

The heartwarming reunion was captured on video as Jacob, 8, and sister Kaya, 5, wrapped their dad in a joyous hug.

"I think the best way to describe it is you truly see and feel unconditional love,'' Prahl told TODAY.

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Prahl, a doctor at the Captain James Lovell Federal Health Care Center in Chicago, had never been on a deployment that long.

The school coordinated with Prahl and his ex-wife, Rachel Sinclair, to set up the reunion by having Kaya and Jacob take part in a "buddy reading" time together in the same room.

"Obviously it is very hard,'' Prahl said about being away from home. "Not just for myself but for the children, their mother, and all the grandparents, family, and friends that have helped and provided support while I was away.

"The hardest moments are missing the holidays like Christmas, Thanksgiving and my son's birthday."

When Prahl appeared in the classroom last Wednesday, Kaya's back was turned.

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Seeing Jacob tap her on the shoulder to point out the surprise had a special meaning for Prahl when he saw the video.

"Honestly, I was the most happy to see my son and daughter working together so closely before I arrived,'' he said. "I think many military children develop very strong bonds with their siblings as they learn to cope with loved ones being gone together.

"This was even evident when my son first saw me and assured that his sister saw me before he reacted, making sure she wasn’t left out."

Follow writer Scott Stump on Twitter.