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Pinellas County Army dad surprises five children at Walt Disney World

Staff Sgt. Yates served a year-long deployment
Posted at 10:45 PM, Jan 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-23 02:54:34-05

SEMINOLE, Fla. -- An Army father from Pinellas County surprised his five children at Walt Disney World on Friday.

U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Byron Yates returned home from a year-long deployment to Syria.

Staff Sgt. Yates has been in the Army for 13 years in the Aviation Medivac Unit based out of Clearwater.

His children were not expecting him home until March.

"Not being able to see your kids, hug them or kiss them or read them bedtime stories, it's probably the hardest thing," said Staff Sgt. Yates.

His wife, Samantha Yates, took their children on a trip to Disney. Her children posed with Disney princesses and enjoyed rides.

The family was posing for a photo when their dad walked up behind them.

"We started to take pictures with the kids and he was hiding in the background. He just came out and surprised them," said Samantha Yates.

"It's great to have dad home. We love him. We pray for him and we love him so much that he didn't get hurt. We pray for him all the time," said Jacob Yates.

His 3-year-old daughter was so in love with the Disney magic and fancy princess dresses, it took her a few seconds to realize dad is home.

"I did cry a little bit. I did a good job hiding it in the video, but I shed a couple tears. I think everyone was crying. It was an emotional experience," said Staff Sgt. Yates.

Their 8-year-old daughter, Kylie, could not stop crying.

"She was shocked. She covered her face and that was probably my favorite part because she immediately burst into tears," added Staff Sgt. Yates.

The family is not sure how long he will be able to stay home. He has been deployed two other times.

"I got lucky enough to find a wife who supports me and is willing to stay at home and let me do what I love and take care of everything back here when I'm gone," said Staff Sgt. Yates.

"It is stressful and it's not for everybody because it is very hard, but in the end it's so great to be reunited," added his wife.