A 5-year-old girl got the surprise of her life Friday morning during an early school assembly in Sanford.

Her father, Sgt. 1st Class Jose Ramos, is home after spending the last 9 months in Afghanistan. According to his wife Mari, this is Sgt. Ramos’ third tour of duty in the Middle East. On Friday, he surprised his daughter Mia at school.

Mari said it is emotionally difficult on the family each time Jose has to leave.

“This is his third tour," Mari Ramos said. "This time [Mia] was asking for her dad all the time."

Sgt. Ramos said he would talk to his family via web cam, the last time being a few weeks prior to his homecoming. The couple’s children, Alejandro, 11, and Mia had a hard time adjusting to dad being gone this time.

“There are many experiences that you can’t experience with him like playing sports, going to the movies and doing many other things,” Alejandro said.

So Mari got together with school officials at Liberty Christian School, where Mia is in kindergarten, and put the plan together to surprise her.

"The kindergarteners are graduating next Friday night and I said, ‘Hey, let’s celebrate this too!'” said school principal Bill Simpson.

With that, Mia and her schoolmates were guided into the gym for an “assembly” and after Mia unveiled a welcome home sign, dad appeared from behind a curtain.

Nearly 10,000 U.S. troops are in in Afghanistan right now. President Barack Obama's plans call for those troops to start coming home at year's end.

By 2017, only a handful of U.S. troops would remain, mainly to protect the U-S Embassy in Kabul.

"It's really difficult, especially now that we have less soldiers there," Sgt. Ramos said. "We're trying to do the missions but it's difficult for everyone."

The family said they are just looking forward to enjoying their time together before dad has to return to his military duties.