A daddy-daughter dance turned into something much bigger for one Killeen elementary student and her soldier dad Thursday evening at Haynes Elementary School.

First-grader Kiersten Barnes had not seen her father, Chief Warrant Officer Marcus Barnes, since he deployed to Europe nine months ago.

They talked on the phone daily and she always asked him if he was coming home soon, and every time Barnes would tell her it would be another couple of months.

As the long-awaited return approached, Barnes wanted to make it extra special for his daughter.

Kiersten’s mom, Rametria Banks, reached out to the campus earlier this week to see if school officials could do a special surprise for her daughter, and the perfect opportunity arose when Haynes Elementary School just happened to be hosting its first-ever Sweetheart Dance the same day Barnes’ unit was arriving back to Fort Hood.

Coordinating with the campus, the father was going to surprise his daughter in the sweetest way ever.

“She’s my sweetheart. She is my only child,” Barnes said. “She’s my angel, and she’s the reason I do what I do day in and day out, so it’s special.”

Hiding on the stage with a bouquet of flowers in hand, he waited for his daughter to be called up by the DJ.

The music paused and the large crowed turned to the stage to listen as the DJ announced the winner of a “raffle.”

The DJ called up Kiersten Barnes as the winner. Her mom followed, knowing what was about to happen.

The DJ asked if she could guess what she had won. Kiersten thought for a moment and said a pencil eraser. She was about to get a much bigger and better gift than that.

The curtain pulled back on the stage and Barnes walked down the steps towards Kiersten. She turned to see her father standing in front of her.

A smile broke across her face and she ran to him with her arms stretched out. Hugging his daughter, Barnes said he felt complete.

For the rest of the evening the family spent time catching up, dancing and taking family photos.

Principal Angela Donovan was just happy that they could come together as a campus to make this a memorable event for the family.

“It’s important to have these surprises at school because it involves us in this event,” said Donovan, “and creates an even bigger bond between the school and home.

“The smiles are the best part though. Pure happiness.”

Barnes is one of about 3,500 Fort Hood soldiers with the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, who are in the process of returning from a nine-month rotation to Europe.

Samantha Seidel is an employee of the KISD communications department and writes about students, teachers and school events.

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