Military Father Surprises Daughter, Crowd at Graduation Ceremony

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (CNN/WDAZ) – There was some extra excitement Sunday at the graduation ceremony of a high school in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

A military father surprised his daughter — and brought the crowd to tears.

The Central High School graduation started out like any other — speeches, music and of course handing out diplomas.  Proud parents watched on, but for one student, something was missing: her father.

“I don’t think I really realized that he wasn’t going to be here until he called me because it was the same number that he’s been calling me from the past five months,” said Taylor Crafton.

Taylor’s father, Chris, is a member of the U.S. Air Force.  He had been deployed to Cuba several months prior.

The Craftons didn’t think Chris would be able to make it so they had a poster made in his likeness.

“My mom’s friend, she made it for us back in Virginia and sent it to us for prom and for graduation so he could still be here in spirit,” said Taylor.

But as it turns out, they didn’t need it at all.  Chris surprised his daughter on stage with the principal’s help.

“I’m just so happy he’s here – [it's] better than a car, better than anything so yeah that’s all I wanted for graduation,” Taylor said.

Since Taylor was 3 months old, Chris has gone through nine deployments.

“For a total of about 1,782 days to be exact,” said Chris Crafton.  “Over the years she’s missed a lot, I’ve missed a lot, you know birthdays, Christmas, that kind of thing so I just tried my best to get here for when she graduated — this is my last deployment so I had to make it happen.”

This wasn’t just a surprise for Taylor.  No one in the Crafton family knew Chris would be here.

“These are just things you see on YouTube or on TV, you know it’s nothing that really happens to people you know so it’s just the best feeling in the world,” said Paige Crafton, Taylor’s mother and Chris’ wife.