He wasn't expecting him home for another few weeks. Imagine Cade O'Brien's surprise when he went to dump his blue recycling bucket into the bin and found his dad was the one behind it.
Thursday, Peterson Elementary School was celebrating Earth Day a few days early. Several students at the school had blue recycling buckets full of paper to recycle at an assembly in the gym. Cade was one of those students. He was the last to dump his bucket.
His dad, Army Staff Sgt. Derek O'Brien, 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, has been in Afghanistan for the last nine months. He works with the Chinook Helicopter crew. This was the first time Cade has been able to hug him since he left.
"You really can't put it into words," said Staff Sgt. O'Brien. "You just count down the days until you get to come home and be with them again."
The two shared a long hug with a few tears and several "I love you"s. Later Cade said the surprise was "crazy" and that when he was able to talk with his dad during his deployment they often talked about when he'd be coming back.
Staff Sgt. O'Brien said before the surprise he was pretty excited to see how Cade would react saying "he's going to be pretty surprised, he's going to be happy." Boy was he right.
It's easy to see how much his dad's career has influenced this 4th grader. He carries a camo covered backpack and has his own dog tags he wears around his neck.
"He thinks he wants to be in the Army too," said his dad. "We'll see."
When asked about it, Cade said "His [Dad's] dad was in the military, might as well keep the family thing going."
This homecoming was extra sweet for Staff Sgt. O'Brien because it also marks the first time he gets to hold his 4-month old son, Braxton.
"I really wanted to meet him," he said. "It's been pretty stressful over there with him being over here. It's great to come home and meet him."
Possibly the best news of all, Staff Sgt. O'Brien said he won't be leaving again any time soon. Cade said that leaves them plenty of time for his favorite activity with his dad, fishing.