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Airman shocks family with sweet homecoming surprise

By Bonney Bowman Photojournalist: John Thain - 7:43 PM August 4, 2014

An Anchorage airman orchestrated a homecoming surprise for his family, thanks to the help of his wife’s friends and co-workers.

Katie Smith is a nurse at the Alaska Heart and Vascular Institute. Monday, she had no idea the patient waiting behind the curtain would be her husband.

Senior Airman Eric Smith has been away from his family for five and a half months, plus one long plane ride.

“It was 36 hours to get from Al Udeid [Air Base] to here,” Eric Smith said. The air base is located west of Qatar.

In a few minutes he knows the journey will be worth it, but until then Smith says he’s feeling nervous.

Across the hospital from where Eric Smith is waiting, his wife is going about her day. She’s the lead imaging RN.

Their 4-year-old daughter Peyton is there too. She’s counting the days until her dad comes home. She thinks it’s 23.

Eric, who is never far from Katie’s mind, comes up in conversation.

“He wasn’t here, he was gone when [Peyton] was born,” she said. “I was hoping he’d make it back. She starts kindergarten on the 20th and I was like, ‘come on, send him home one week early. One week.’”

Eric Smith has known for a while he’d be coming home one month early, but he kept it a secret from the two people he loves most.

“I’ve been in the military about six years now. Probably three and a half, four of them I’ve been gone and I’ve never got to surprise her or anything,” he said.

Finally, it’s his chance to give his family the surprise of a lifetime, and it goes perfectly. She rushes to hug her husband and kisses him on the cheek.

Katie says she was shocked to see him. Peyton is overjoyed.

There’s one more surprise on the agenda, but this time it’s for Eric.

“We actually bought a house while I was gone, so I haven’t seen it. I told them I wanted that to be a surprise too so probably we’ll go into our house for the first time,” he said.

Katie Smith’s co-workers made sure her shifts for the rest of Monday and Tuesday were covered so she and Eric and Peyton can have a couple days together, enjoying their new home and each other.

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