The daughter of an airman on leave from deployment in Cuba received the surprise of a lifetime when her father showed up at her high school graduation Sunday.
When Taylor Crafton was called back up on the stage at the end of graduation in Grand Forks, North Dakota, the 18-year-old had no idea her father would be waiting.
“I thought, ‘Why is he pulling her up in front of all her classmates, knowing that her dad is deployed and it’s so emotional?'” mother Paige Crafton told ABC News. “Taylor is up there just bawling her eyes out in front of her class.”
Moments later, Chief Master Sergeant Chris Crafton rushed onto the stage to congratulate his daughter on her milestone achievement.
According to ABC News, Sgt. Crafton received permission from his superiors to attend his daughter’s graduation ahead of his scheduled return home in August.
Crafton, a 28-year Air Force veteran who has been on nine deployments, kept the surprise a secret from his family including his wife.
He will spend time with his family until his return to Cuba Thursday.
“Now that the whole thing is over, we’re all just kind of still in shock that the military let it happen and so thankful that he was here to celebrate Taylor’s big day,” Paige Crafton said, adding, “She and her dad are very close and she was pretty devastated when he was deployed,” she said. “It’s been a roller coaster the past few months.”
Taylor plans to study interior design at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia in the fall.
*ABC News contributed to this report.