By Pat Ciarrocchi

BLACKWOOD, N.J. (CBS)–Birthdays have a way of making a little girl smile and feel like a princess, and for Skylynn Ippolito, today was her day.

Staff Sgt. John Ippolito of the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division says, “I just hope I don’t trip on the way in. It would be really embarrassing.”

Ten days ago, Staff. Sgt. Ippolito was in the mountains of Afghanistan, hoping this mission would come together.

Today, he’s trekking the terrain of Blackwood Elementary School, where he is going to surprise his daughter, Skylynn, on her eighth birthday.

All of the grownups kept the secret. It was important that it be a surprise for Skylynn.

What a surprise it was, folded into a lesson about the military in service.

Skylynn’s teacher asks, “Does anyone know where is Afghanistan?”

Skylynn knows, “Because my daddy is in Afghanistan.”

She adds, “I feel really sad because I miss him.”

But then through using a game and a blindfold, a birthday wish came true.

“Happy birthday, kiddo. I love you!” Staff Sgt. Ippolito says hugging Skylynn.

It has been nine months since their last hug.

Over eight years, with two deployments to Iraq and one to Afghanistan, Staff Sgt. Ippolito has missed a lot of daddy time, while confronting the struggle imbedded in war.

“You see the downside of what life is like for others. So it just opens your eyes to just how good people here in the America have it.”

The children’s sacrifice is when a parent is deployed.

“Since my daddy came home, this is the best birthday ever!”

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