After her daddy left for Afghanistan, Addison Williams found ways to deal with the sadness.
She held on to a Daddy Doll, a replica of a man in uniform that had a picture of her father’s face on it. She listened to audio books he had recorded with his voice before his deployment.
She wrote in her journal, and looked at photographs with her mother, Adelle. When Mom was putting together care packages, she pitched in drawings to include.
Addison was four months old the last time her father had deployed. This would be the first deployment the 6-year-old could remember.
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Addison hoped, Adelle Williams told The Star, that somehow her Dad would make it home for her and her little brother’s birthdays next week. But she already knew that the real plan was for her Dad to come home before Christmas.
So on Wednesday, when Addison and her classmates assembled for a presentation about veterans, Addison didn’t suspect anything out-of-the-ordinary. She answered a question correctly about what a veteran is, and she raised her hand along with others when asked if she knew someone who served in the military.
The special guest that walked out from a hiding spot in a side corridor looked familiar.
“My daddy!” Addison said. And she ran to embrace him.
It was a surprise Adelle and Brandon Williams had talked about before.
“It was always kind of Brandon and I’s idea to surprise her at school if possible,” Adelle Williams, 32, said.
Originally, Brandon Williams, 35, wasn’t supposed to come home until the day before Christmas. Then, the unit meant to replace Brandon’s unit came early.
He’d make it home for Addison and little brother Raylan’s birthdays on Nov. 17 and 21, respectively.
Brandon Williams, of the U.S. Army Reserve, left home in January. He spent time in the United States for a few months before briefly seeing his family one more time. Adelle and her kids haven’t seen him since he deployed to Afghanistan as a unit movement officer for the Bravo Company 7-158th Aviation Regiment in March.
Sometimes, they could catch him early in the morning or late at night on Facebook Messenger. But it wasn’t the same, and Brandon Williams said he just wanted to see his family.
“It grabbed me to to know how proud of me she is because I feel like that’s where that came from,” an emotional Brandon Williams said Wednesday after the surprise. “It made me pretty happy.”
As he held her, Addison wore the same shirt she wore when her father left home in January. On the front it says: The land of the free because my daddy is brave.