ROCK HILL, S.C. -- A Rock Hill soldier returned home on leave and surprised his 6-year-old daughter who had no idea that he would be the one picking her up after gym class Tuesday night.
"I miss her. Miss her a lot," said Staff Sgt. Douglas Estes as he and his wife Rachael prepared to go inside Thomas Gymnastics on Mt. Gallant Road to surprise their daughter, Riley.
Estes and his family had been stationed in South Korea until Rachael had some health issues and had to return to Rock Hill with Riley.
Sgt. Estes, who works with a missile defense unit, had to stay on alone in Korea.
As they walked inside the gym, Riley had no idea she was about to see her father for the first time in seven months.
"We spend a lot of time apart so that just makes all our time together that much more special," said Rachel.
When she saw her father, Riley ran to him and he picked her up in his arms saying, "I missed you and I love you."
Other parents and kids in the gym classes stopped for a moment to applaud and cheer.
Looking at Riley, Sgt. Estes said she looked, "Tall. Like when she left she was only that big," indicating a spot about belt high.
The family now just wants to spend time together and the first place they want to go is Florida.
"I want to go to Seaworld and have lunch with Shamu," said Riley.
"Okay!" said her father.
Sgt. Estes will be home for 35 days before he has to return to Korea. He is hoping his tour of duty there will end in late summer.