SELMA, Ala. (WSFA) - The school day started out like any other morning for Kaleigh Willis, learning while wondering if she’ll see her mom again anytime soon. The last time was six months ago before Staff Sgt. Ashley King deployed to the Middle East.
But Thursday would turn out to be a bit different. King decided to surprise her little girl at Edgewood Elementary School in Selma.
“She might cry. She might cry,” Staff Sgt. King admitted before the big surprise, adding she was nervous just minutes before the big meeting.
“Nerve-wracking day,” said King.
King made the trip home this week because her grandmother, Kaleigh’s great-grandmother, recently passed away. But Kaleigh didn’t expect her mom home until next month.
During a school assembly on the topic of ‘kindness,’ they pulled the curtains back and the shock on little Kaleigh’s face said it all. The joy. The surprise. The embrace on stage was witnessed by Kaleigh’s fellow classmates.
“It was very heart-wrenching. I’m usually not a crier for the most part,” said Principal Dr. Margaret Jones.
“I miss you. I miss you, too!” Kaleigh and Ashley said to each other. It was a moment to remember for King.
“I’ve been talking about her to my co-workers, like I just want to get home and see my kids,” she said.
It’s also a memory to cherish for Kaleigh. “At first I didn’t think it was real, but then I realized that’s my mom,” Kaleigh said.
“It was an amazing moment,” King exclaimed.
And there’s more good news for Kaleigh. Her mom, a 12-year veteran in the U.S. Air Force, is now home for good.