MINNEAPOLIS -- In Afghanistan Specialist Gary Kirby's mission was clearing IEDs from truck routes.
His first assignment upon returning from his deployment Tuesday was getting himself gift-wrapped.
"My wife thought it would be great to surprise my son at his sixth birthday party," Kirby explained.
"I thought maybe I would just walk through the back doors and say, 'Yeah! I'm here!' but she said, 'No, no, no, we're doing the present thing.'"
Breanna Kirby made sure her son Derek, a kindergartner in Stillwater, kept in touch with his dad via Skype while Gary was deployed as part of the 849th Mobility Augmentation Company based in Litchfield. But with Derek's birthday coming up, Breanna kept Gary's return date a secret from the boy.
All Derek knew was that his father had been "on the other side of the world" since last July, and would be in stopping in Texas on the way home.
"I had to be careful, and the whole surprise almost got blown twice!" Breanna Kirby told KARE.
Breanna developed a cover story to explain the TV cameras that showed up at his party at the Pump it Up play center in Oakdale.
"He thinks they came to make a video of his birthday party to send to his dad."
When the time came to open the "big present" the kindergartner ripped into the box, and seemed temporarily stunned to see a man in uniform rising from it.
"Hi!" Derek said, then paused.
Laughter broke out at Derek's seemingly unfazed response.
Then Derek let out a longer "Hi" and touched his father's forehead, as if to make sure it was the real thing.
As they embraced onlookers clapped and wept.
Derek's favorite present?
"Daddy in a box!"
As for Derek's dad, he had his own present to unwrap Tuesday. He got to see his infant son Arlie for the first time.