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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Friday morning pep rallies are a time honored tradition in high school. The band plays. The dancers perform. The football team usually tears through a banner to a loud roar of cheers.

But the man behind the banner at Somerset Academy High School in Pembroke Pines Friday morning wasn’t wearing pads and a helmet. He was sporting boots and Army fatigues.

“I am excited to see my daughter. I’m excited to be back. It’s a great day,” said Lt. Col. Aaron Jones.

Lt. Col. Jones has been in Afghanistan for the past year.

“It’s difficult, but it’s part of the job,” he said of his tenure with the U.S. Army Reserves. “Been in it 18 years now. It’s rewarding. It means a lot to serve the United States Army.”

For most of those 18 years, Jones has been a dad to daughter Kiana, a senior at Somerset.

She knew she had to go to the gym Friday for a pep rally. What she didn’t know was that the entire thing was staged and everyone around her was in on it.

When the banner bearing her father’s name appeared, she went from confused to overjoyed in seconds.

“First I saw the sign and when I saw his name I was just confused. I was like, my dad? I don’t even see him. I saw his boots. Then I started crying,” Kiana said.

Through the tears, she gave her dad a big hug, and he gave her a necklace, a reminder that he’s always close to her heart even when he’s not around.

“To actually have him home is a completely different feeling, to know he’s safe,” she said.

“No words can describe that. My only daughter, only child. This has been amazing,” Lt. Col. Jones explained.

Kiana plans to attend New York University in the fall, so she’ll have to soak up as much time with her dad as she can this year.

She says she expects him to be at all of her sporting events. He says he wouldn’t miss them for the world.

Lauren Pastrana

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