Franklinton, N.C. — An Air Force contractor who has spent all but 22 days of the past two years in Iraq surprised his young daughter Tuesday by showing up at her Granville County school dressed as Santa Claus.
Bethany Arnold, a second-grader at Tar River Elementary School in Franklinton, recently wrote a letter to Santa asking for her father to come home for Christmas.
"That would be the best gift of all," Bethany wrote.
So Wyndal Arnold, who was heading home on leave, and Bethany's mother hatched a plan to surprise the 7-year-old.
Arnold bought presents for all of Bethany's classmates and arrived, dressed as Santa, to deliver them. There wasn't a present for Bethany, however, so an elf invited her to sit on Santa's lap and tell him her Christmas wish.
"Santa, for Christmas, I want my dad to come home," the girl said.
Arnold then held up a small heart that Bethany had given him before he left for Iraq. She looked at it curiously and gave Santa a hug of thanks before Arnold pulled off his disguise and got an even bigger hug.
Just like Santa, he checked twice to make sure his little girl got everything on her wish list.
"You happy? You sure you don't want something else? You got everything you needed? What are you crying for?" he said.
"I'm just so happy that you're home," a tearful Bethany responded.
Arnold doesn't have to return to Iraq until the end of January.