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Leesburg first grader gets surprise of a lifetime at school

Army Staff Sergeant Brittany Nelson surprised her daughter, Amaya Hill, at Kinchafoonee Primary School on Wednesday. / Mary Green

First graders at Leesburg's Kinchafoonee Primary School put on a special patriotic show Wednesday morning, but little did they know the real reason they were there.

Army Staff Sergeant Brittany Nelson had just arrived back in Southwest Georgia after a year-long deployment to South Korea.

Her daughter, Amaya Hill, is one of those first graders, and Amaya hadn't been able to get in touch with her mom the past two days.

It was unusual for the mother and daughter, who usually talked twice a day, after Amaya woke up and before she went to bed.

"She tried to get in contact for two days," SSG Nelson said. "Two days we had to go without so it could be shocking to her."

"Shocking" is one way to describe the surprise SSG Nelson, her family and Kinchafoonee staff had planned for Amaya that morning.

While the first graders practiced their singing in the school's cafeteria, SSG Nelson walked in behind the cover of red, white and blue balloons, before revealing herself and exclaiming with a big smile, "Amaya!"

The surprise seemed to be a little too shocking for Amaya at first, who stood frozen where she was before running across the cafeteria and into her mom's arms.

"It was amazing," SSG Nelson said. "I haven't seen her. I missed her birthday, her kindergarten graduation, everything."

SSG Nelson said this was one of her longest deployments yet. She had previously served a year in Afghanistan as well.

The next big surprise for Amaya was getting to leave school early with her mom. At the top of their to-do list was lunch at Chick-Fil-A and an appointment at the nail salon.

Amaya said she's looking forward to planning her upcoming birthday party in March at the skating rink.

"All she's been talking about is her birthday, me coming here and being here for her birthday," SSG Nelson said.

SSG Nelson now begins a 30-day leave before reporting to Fort Stewart, outside Columbus, where she will be stationed next.

Amaya will finish out her first-grade year with her grandmother, with whom she has been living during SSG Nelson's deployments, before joining her mom there.

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