Army dad surprises daughter with a return home for the holidays

Camryn Almond, 5, gets hugs from her mother, Sade, left, and her father, U.S. Army Specialist Cleyce Almond, when he surprises her at school Thursday, Dec,. 21, 2017. Spec. Almond has been away from home at Army boot camp for nine weeks and arranged to surprise his oldest daughter at her school's winter concert.  (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Camryn Almond, 5, gets hugs from her mother, Sade, left, and her father, U.S. Army Specialist Cleyce Almond, when he surprises her at school Thursday, Dec,. 21, 2017. Spec. Almond has been away from home at Army boot camp for nine weeks and arranged to surprise his oldest daughter at her school's winter concert. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

Norwich — The fourth- and fifth-grade chorus were nearing the end of their final song, “Home,” in the John B. Stanton School holiday concert when U.S. Army Specialist Cleyce Almond emerged from the corner of the stage and tried to catch the attention of his 5-year-old daughter, Camryn, in the first row.

A teacher tried to help, but the dad jumped off the stage instead and greeted the girl with a big hug as the entire school body applauded.

Almond, 26, made a surprise return for the holidays at the school concert Thursday after having spent the past nine weeks at basic training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. He’ll return to complete the last two weeks of training on Jan. 3 and will graduate Jan. 18.

In addition to the big hug and smile he got from Camryn, Almond got to see his new 9-day-old daughter, Cherish, for the first time. And he hoped to hear his 2-year-old daughter, Cali, speak for the first time.

“She’s talking now. When I left, she was only 1. She turned 2 when I was away,” Cleyce Almond said. He paused a couple seconds and added to a group of reporters and school officials standing nearby. “Cherish your families, especially around the holidays.”

Wife and mother Sade Almond is looking forward to 12 days of sleeping in. With an infant needing frequent feeding and a 2-year-old and 5-year-old also clamoring for attention, she said, “I was outnumbered. We’ll still be outnumbered, but it’s better now.”

Sade grew up in Connecticut, while Cleyce grew up in North Carolina. They met at Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C., got married and moved to Norwich. Before joining the Army, Cleyce Almond worked as a personal trainer.

Last Father’s Day, his family designated him as a “Superhero Dad,” and now he feels he’s starting to earn the title.

“This country, I love it,” he said when asked his reason for joining the Army. With all the trouble going on in the world, he said he wanted to do something to support America.

The family will get his station assignment in February. Sade Almond looks forward to being a military family, with frequent moves that will allow their children to see most of the United States, and then, she hopes, different parts of the world.

When her dad was distracted doing TV news interviews, Camryn turned to her mother and said they needed to go shopping.

“We’re going to get him the best present ever!” she whispered to her mom.

c.bessette@theday.com

U.S. Army Specialist Cleyce Almond steps out on stage at the end of the winter concert at Stanton School in Norwich to surprise his daughter, kindergartner Camryn Almond, 5, Thursday, December 21, 2017. Spec. Almond has been away from home at Army boot camp for nine weeks and arranged to surprise his oldest daughter at her school.  (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
U.S. Army Specialist Cleyce Almond steps out on stage at the end of the winter concert at Stanton School in Norwich to surprise his daughter, kindergartner Camryn Almond, 5, Thursday, December 21, 2017. Spec. Almond has been away from home at Army boot camp for nine weeks and arranged to surprise his oldest daughter at her school. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Camryn Almond, 5, reacts as her father, U.S. Army Specialist Cleyce Almond, surprises her at the conclusion of the winter concert at Stanton School in Norwich on Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017. Spec. Almond has been away from home at boot camp for nine weeks and arranged to surprise his oldest daughter at her school's winter concert.  (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Camryn Almond, 5, reacts as her father, U.S. Army Specialist Cleyce Almond, surprises her at the conclusion of the winter concert at Stanton School in Norwich on Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017. Spec. Almond has been away from home at boot camp for nine weeks and arranged to surprise his oldest daughter at her school's winter concert. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

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