BRADENTON -- Saint Stephen's Episcopal School students Peytan and Tillman Caskey knew their dad was coming home from Afghanistan on Friday. But they did not expect him to show up at school.
Marine Lt. Col. Brian Caskey has been deployed at the Helmand Province in Afghanistan since November. He has been on active duty for the past four years, and has a total of 18 1/2 years of active duty. His wife, Jennifer Caskey, is a fifth-grade teacher at Saint Stephen's.
Peytan, 7, and Tillman, 5, thought they were going to the airport after school to pick up their daddy, but instead got a surprise when he showed up at campus and waited for them in Tillman's pre-kindergarten classroom.
Tillman and his classmates made a giant banner for Caskey, and Tillman and Peytan danced in celebration that they would not have to bring it to Tampa, and they would not have to wait to be reunited any longer.
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"I need to tell my friends this!" Peytan exclaimed.
Caskey marveled at how much his kids have grown since November, and an inquisitive, excited Tillman asked him a flurry of questions.
"Dad, what's it like to be on an airplane for 15 hours?" Tillman asked.
Caskey said the last couple months of waiting to come home have been the longest, as his kids were growing tired of only interacting with "computer Dad." On Friday, they finally had "real Dad."
There was a moment of silence as Caskey held the kids, and then Jennifer.
"What matters is that I'm home now for a little while," Caskey said.
Caskey is currently a reservist and plans to eventually transition back to his job as an airline pilot.
While he is home, Caskey and his family plan to fish, watch Tillman play hockey and play a family game called "logs."
Erica Earl, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.