ALBERTVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — A second grade student got a surprise visitor at school Friday when her father walked into her classroom after a nine-month deployment.
Eight-year-old Alivia Michael pumped both fists, exclaimed “yes”, and after checking for approval from her teacher, ran to hug Sergeant Jacob Michael for the first time since July.
“We didn’t know if she was going to jump up and come running after me or if she was just going to sit in her chair and be scared not to come up,” Sergeant Michael said.
“I got really surprised,” Livi said.
Mary Claire Darden distracted her students by pretending WHNT News 19’s Robert Richardson and a reporter from a local newspaper were there to talk about career day.
Livi could tell there was more to it than that.
“I saw somebody outside the door,” she said.
“All I saw was a few people and then I saw him walking through. [It was] really good.”
Sergeant Michael joined the Marines not long after Livi was born. He said he was not sure what he wanted to do with his life and thought the military might be the best place to start. This was his third deployment, after tours in Iraq and Afghanistan when she was a baby.
“She was younger so she didn’t quite grasp the concept of me being gone,” Michael said.
“It’s been difficult. Deployments are long and it’s hard being away from your family and stuff so it’s just good to see her again. It doesn’t really get that much easier [deploying a second or third time]. But at the same time, you have to do what you have to do,” he said.
“She understands but at the same time it’s still hard on both of us.”
Livi described her time without her father as “boring” but said she is excited to spend time with him again. She is particularly looking forward to coloring some pictures with him.
“She is a great student and a sweet girl,” Darden said about her student. “I called her Alivia until about the third day of school and she said, ‘My mom calls my Livi. Can you call me Livi?’ And I said yes, so we all know her as Livi and she is just the sweetest little girl.”
Sergeant Michael and his daughter got to video chat on a couple of occasions, and he recorded a video of himself reading a book to her which he sent to his wife and daughter, which Darden also played for the rest of the second grade class.
Darden was glad to meet Livi’s father and to share the celebration with the other students.
“it’s been great, it’s been a fun experience for everybody,” she said.
Sergeant Michael said he grew up all over and went to Smiths Station High School in Lee County near Opelika, but said he considers Huntsville home. His wife is from Douglas, and they wanted to raise their family in Marshall County.