CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – For Bryan and Xander Ashley, who go to Elk Elementary Center in Charleston, the last three years have been tough.
That’s because their father, U.S. Army Specialist Bryan Ashley, has been stationed in Hawaii.
On Friday, he came home and surprised them at a school assembly. A teacher leading the assembly asked students in the bleachers to raise their hands if they had a relative in the military, and then announced that the father of two students was coming home Friday as a surprise.
“I had no clue who he was, until I saw that nametag, and everybody said, ‘It's your dad!’ and then I came running,” Bryan Ashley, a fourth-grader, said.
Bryan and Xander ran to their father and hugged him tightly. Bryan cried and told his father he never wanted him to leave again.
“It's really hard. It's just – you've got to go through it. You know when you're doing this that you're providing for your family, taking care of your family, making sure that everything is done so they don't have to worry about it,” Specialist Ashley said.
Ashley said during the three years he’s been gone, he and the boys have kept in touch through Skype, phone calls and writing letters. He tells WSAZ.com he looks forward to the day when he and his boys can live together again.
“I was just filled with happiness, you know, sadness that I’ve missed all this time,” Ashley said. “I was just excited to get to see them again.”
Xander, a first-grader, said, “I've missed playing with him and I’ve missed showing him stuff, cause there's a lot of new stuff he hasn't seen since he's been gone."