KILLEEN — A soldier returning from deployment was assisted by Willow Springs Elementary School officials in planning a surprise homecoming reunion with his daughter at the school Jan. 24.

Capt. Shavayey Cato just returned home after spending a year deployed to Camp Buehring, Kuwait, with Area Support Group as a logistics officer. Cato said he told his daughter, 8-year-old Allyson, he would return in February when he returned in January to make the surprise possible.

“I really wanted to surprise her,” Cato said. “I just like to go above and beyond for my daughter.”

The teacher had the students partnered in the hallway outside their classroom reading quietly and were told to ignore the television cameras. Allyson, a second-grader at Willow Springs, was reading her assignment when her dad walked around the corner and crouched in front of her. It took several moments before she looked up and realized he was there.

“I could not believe that he was here,” Allyson said. “I thought I was dreaming.”

Allyson said the hardest part of being separated from her dad was not spending time with him.

“Not being able to see him in person was the hardest part,” Allyson said. “He takes me to so many exciting places when he is around.”

Cato said the last time he’d seen his daughter was in July when he was on leave during his mid-deployment break.

“I’ve missed her, but now I’m back here and I get to see her more often,” he said. “After being in such a stressful environment like that, it feels pretty good to be here.”

Cato said he has a lot of activities planned out now that he’s home and with his daughter.

“I’ve got season passes to Six Flags and SeaWorld; that’s my surprise for her and we’re just going to have a lot of fun,” Cato said. “Being in the military is kind of tough because you’re always deployed, and I want to use this time to do more with her and be more of a father.”

Cato said now that he was back he wanted to be a father in person and not just on Facetime.

“I just miss going to the library with her, reading with her and just listening to her laugh,” he said. “One of the things she’s developed now is she likes to sing, so I look forward to hearing those songs.”

Cato said he is also a singer and looks forward to making music with his daughter.

“I think we could get together and do a little duet,” he said.

Cato said what he missed most about his daughter was her personality.

“She’s a goofy person but she’s also very intelligent, too. I just miss going to the library with her and listening to her laugh,” he said.

Allyson said she missed going to the zoo with her dad, but the first thing she wants to do is go bowling, so Cato said his next plan with his daughter after the reunion was to spend lunch with her at school and go bowling afterwards.

“I asked her what she wanted to do when I come back, and she said she loved bowling,” Cato said.

This was Cato’s third deployment; his last deployment was to Iraq in 2011 while stationed at Fort Hood, also. His next assignment will be as an instructor for the University of Texas San Antonio Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corp, in San Antonio.

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