The Veterans Day assembly at McKenny Elementary in Olympia turned out to be a family reunion.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Latavis Walker returned from his 9-month deployment Thursday, a week earlier than his six children were expecting.

The timing made it perfect for a surprise appearance at the elementary school’s assembly.

Three of his children attend McKenny and they were the first to give him hugs as he was announced and entered the gym through a side door.

“This means more to me than anything,” said Walker, who served in Jordan and Kuwait during his most recent deployment.

During his 14-year military career, he’s been overseas three times, including a tour in Iraq.

He’s missed birthdays and holidays, so Walker said as a service member, it’s important to create as many memorable moments as you can.

“We sacrifice a lot being away from our families - a lot,” said Walker.