Soldier returns 6 days early from deployment to surprise first-grade son at Lakeside Elementary

Don Coble
Posted 4/10/19

ORANGE PARK – Aden Lawrence has been counting down the days until his father, John Meredith was scheduled to return home from deployment.

That countdown ended six days early on Monday.

The …

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Soldier returns 6 days early from deployment to surprise first-grade son at Lakeside Elementary

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ORANGE PARK – Aden Lawrence has been counting down the days until his father, John Meredith was scheduled to return home from deployment.

That countdown ended six days early on Monday.

The Lakeside Elementary first-grader was listening to principal Dawn Wolfe and assistant principal Christy Fowler reading stories about the American flag when he was surprised by his father, a U.S. Navy AM2 aircraft mechanic, who returned home earlier than expected.

Meredith tapped his son on the shoulder, and the two instantly embraced as classmates and teachers clapped – and cried – in approval.

“Daddy?” Aden said.

“It was everything I thought it would be,” Meredith said with tears welling in his eyes. “I wanted to make a memory of me coming home more impactful than me leaving. I couldn’t wait to get home. I wanted to hold my boy.”

With daddy home, Aden said he’ going to “hug him forever.”

Meredith is stationed at nearby NAS Jacksonville. He spent the last six months moving from El Salvador, Colombia, the Philippines and Japan before returning home Monday. He will remain home in Orange Park for the next year, he said.

The reunion was organized by Aden’s teacher, Danielle Knotts. Most students and teachers wore purple as part of recognizing the Month of the Military Child. Meredith’s camouflage khakis were a rare, but accepted, exception.

“It was hard not to look at [Meredith] was he walked up,” Wolfe said. “We wanted to make sure it was a big surprise.”

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