HARKER HEIGHTS — After seven months, a 16-hour plane ride from Doha, Qatar, and a last-minute, three-hour car ride from the Houston airport, Pfc. Cornelius Price, 23, was about to deliver his biggest surprise yet.

“I can’t wait to see her reaction,” the anxious father-to-be said as he was hiding out in a car in the Cracker Barrel parking lot early Saturday. “She thinks I’m not coming home for R and R until sometime during the first week of June.”

The couple, who married last March before he was shipped away to basic training and advanced individual training, were supposed to start their lives together at Fort Bliss.

But before they moved to El Paso, he got orders to deploy to Kuwait for a year. Nine weeks pregnant, Taleiyah Price, 20, opted to stay behind with family in Killeen until her husband returned home from his yearlong deployment.

Now, with her due date just a few weeks away, Taleiyah Price’s mother-in-law, Sarah Price, feared her son would miss the birth of his son.

“At first we heard that as of June 1, no one was allowed to come home for R and R. Thankfully something changed because she is due June 8,” Sarah Price said. “(My son and I) were talking on the phone one day and came up with the idea to surprise her instead of sharing the news that he was able to come home.”

After working out the logistics, the mother-son team drafted a plan to surprise Taleiyah Price during an early morning family breakfast.

“I really wanted to put my hands on her belly and feel my son kick,” the soldier said.

Not wanting to wait a minute longer, he came around the corner, placing his hands tenderly on his wife’s shoulders. Taleiyah Price, quizzically turned around, let out a scream and quickly rose to embrace her husband before giving him a gentle love tap on the arm.

“I am overwhelmed and so caught off guard,” she said, wiping tears of joy off her face. “I can’t even begin to describe how I am feeling. It’s like I am in a dream. He’s got a car seat to put in, things to hang and feet to rub.”

Diners sitting nearby, equally surprised, erupted with a round of applause as the couple reunited.

“I was looking forward to her reaction, but I didn’t expect her to blow up like that,” Cornelius Price said. “I’m just so happy to be home with her.”

Contact Vanessa Lynch at vlynch@kdhnews.com or 254-501-7567.

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