A Chicago-area naval serviceman gave his two small daughters an amazing Memorial Day surprise during a scavenger hunt at the Lewis Joliet Mall Friday night.
First Class Petty Officer Aaron Haines reunited with his girls after more than a year and a half at sea near Japan, according to CBS Chicago.
“I can’t help but be nervous right now,” he told the station Friday as he awaited the big reveal.
Haines' wife arranged the scavenger hunt to surprise her step-daughters, Haines' two girls Maria, 8, and Erin, 7. According to the Sun-Times, mall security gave the girls their final clue that ultimately led them to their dad.
The food court where the girls were reunited with Haines erupted in cheers as the three shared a tearful reunion. Afterwards, WGN says the girls enjoyed a pizza party with their family.
Haines has served 12 years in the Navy and already has completed two tours of Iraq, including one as a part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, according to Joliet Patch. Haines told Patch he plans to put another eight years in before retiring to civilian life but is not taking anything for granted in the meantime.
“I know a few who haven’t made it home—accidents or whatever or else,” he said. “My heart goes out to them. As much as I love the fact I’m able to see my girls, it’s good to know people are out there wishing everybody a happy Memorial Day. It’s more about the people who haven’t been able to make it back.”