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Sgt. Scott Nowling had not seen his family since March and had never been home for any of his daughter Chloe's birthdays.
Both of those streaks came to an emotional end on Nov. 6 when he served as a surprise guest at a Veterans Day celebration at Liberty Early Elementary School in Indiana, where he scooped up a surprised Chloe, 6, in a tearful reunion.
Nowling, 27, who has two daughters with his wife, enlisted in the Marines before Chloe was born.
He is stationed in San Diego and has been deployed four times, twice to Afghanistan and most recently to Japan.
"I don't think she understands it in full yet, but she understands what it's like to be away, not having her father there all the time with her," Nowling told NBC affiliate WTHR.
"Christmas, holidays, first day of school, I wasn't there. Everything. Waking up in the middle of the night and she's had nightmares and I wasn't there to hold her. Everything that you could possibly imagine that you would want your father there for, I wasn't able to."
Nowling was also able to be home for Chloe's sixth birthday on Monday, marking the first time he has been with her on her special day.
The family will spend a handful of days together at home in Plainfield, outside Indianapolis, before he returns to San Diego.
"I miss how he used to just cuddle with me,'' Chloe told WTHR.
"It's been very anxious,'' Nowling said. "I've just wanted to come home and see her and be able to hold her again but the surprise was worth it. It gets extremely difficult, being away from them. I know it's for a good cause, but not being able to be there for your children is hard."
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