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Soldier Homecoming | Connecticut National Guardsman surprises son at school after year-long deployment

Anakin Grenier thought it was just a normal school day. And then his dad showed up.

MIDDLETOWN, Conn. — A local elementary school student got a massive surprise Monday afternoon during a school assembly when his dad returned from a year-long deployment overseas.

First Sgt. Dan Grenier has been on active duty with the Connecticut National Guard for more than a year. He was serving in Poland and on Monday, he went to Bielefield Elementary in Middletown to see his son Anakin for the first time in several months.

“Overwhelmed being home,” Grenier told reporters. “Today it’s been exactly a year – a year ago today I got on an airplane here from Connecticut and went down to Texas, did some training and then went over to Poland. Just did the same thing in reverse.”

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Anakin Grenier, a third grader who apparently has been on a haircut strike since his father left, had no idea his father was coming home on Monday.

“Mom and dad didn’t tell me,” he told reporters after the surprise. “Every grown-up knew … they totally kept it a secret from me.”

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Sitting in the school’s gym, Anakin Grenier thought it was just a normal school day. When they announced this dad’s name, he wasn’t sure if it was true.

“It was when I saw him open his arms (that I knew it was him),” the third grader said. “[I thought] ‘Is this a different Dan Grenier or is it the same Dan Grenier’?”

But it was his dad. Anakin quickly jumped up, ran to his dad and gave him the biggest hug.

“One of the first things he said when I first put him down, he looked at me and said ‘I can finally get a haircut now,’” Dan Grenier said.

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Dan Grenier said returning home had a small bump in the road – or the air – as he had some flight problems in Atlanta and didn’t know if he was going to make it to Bielefield on time for the surprise.

“Fortunately, everything worked out,” he said, adding: “When my wife got me from the airport, it was emotional. This was for all of us, it's what we’ve been looking forward to for a year – getting back together.”

The first thing he wants to do now that he’s home: drive down to New Haven to get pizza at Sally’s or Modern.

“I don’t care what they say about Europe – they do not have pizza like they do here,” he said.


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