SOUTH HAVEN, Ind. — Jayden Moree was all settled on the floor of Saylor Elementary School's library with his fellow kindergarten students Monday morning.
They were waiting for their guest reader to read the next chapter of "Because of Winn Dixie."
Principal John Zack told the youngsters they had a very special reader that morning, someone near and dear to one of the students.
Then he introduced Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Trevor Moree.
It took Jayden a moment, but then the 6-year-old jumped up and into the arms of his father.
"Daddy," he said, burying his head in his father's chest, holding tight.
Trevor Moree hadn't seen Jayden or his younger siblings, Kaison, 4, and Kynsleigh, 3, for 10 months. His wife, Jessica, and her aunt, Phyllis Constatine, of Burns Harbor, had worked with the school to pull off the surprise.
Trevor Moree surprised Kaison and Kynsleigh just moments before in a school office.
Most recently stationed in Okinawa, Japan, Trevor Moree arrived in Chicago at 1 a.m. Monday. He spent the night at his aunt's home and went to the school where Kaison and Kynsleigh saw him for the first time since April.
"Santa Claus brought daddy home," Jessica Moree told the two children.
Kaison, like his brother, shouted "Daddy" and ran to Trevor Moree. Kynsleigh, a little shy, took a few moments before she climbed into his lap.
He communicated via FaceTime with his children from an airport the night before. He had some bad news, he recalled telling them: daddy wouldn't be home for Christmas.
As Kaison sat on his dad's lap, awaiting reading time in the library, he recited his ABCs and counted.
"We're going to play games," he said about what he and his dad would do on the 12-day leave.
"I'm just going to spend time with him," Jayden said.
"We're going to do whatever the kids want to do. I hope it is going to be a white Christmas so we can build a snowman," Trevor Moree said. First on the agenda was getting ice cream, he said. "I haven't had any for a long time."
Trevor Moree said the separation had been particularly difficult this time, being so far away for so long and not being able to actively participate in his children's lives.
Jessica Moree said the surprise was to be special for Jayden because his dad had missed so many firsts in his life. They wanted to make his homecoming from his longest deployment memorable.
Trevor Moree, a native of Summerville, South Carolina, has been in the Marines for nearly 11 years, deployed as far as Afghanistan, Kuwait and Japan. The couple have been married for seven years. Jessica Moree said they moved to South Haven just before her husband's most recent deployment so she could be closer to family.