Cedar Ridge Elementary School second-grader Asya Peyton could not stop smiling Friday.
Asya's class threw a party to welcome home her father, Staff Sgt. Damon Peyton of the 67th Signal Battalion, from a 15-month tour in Iraq.
Dottie Story, Asya's teacher, planned the celebration months ago when she saw how her pupil was struggling in school. She planned the party so Asya could look forward to it.
"I never really understood how hard this was on the families with the parents being so far away," Story said. "I really think teachers need to try to do what they can."
The class also kept in touch with Peyton during the school year, and they counted down the days until his return.
The pupils wrote him letters and sent him a care package in the fall.
Story said Peyton sent the class a piece of Iraqi paper money and wrote an individual letter to each child.
"It made the situation more real to them," she said.
Peyton, who returned home Jan. 14, said the hardest part about being away from his family was missing the holidays.
But "It was nice getting all the letters from the kids."
He also said it was good to be able to put names and faces together by meeting the children at the party.
Peyton's wife, Tina, said she was glad to have her husband home again, and she said Asya was just as delighted.
"She's had a really hard time with him being gone," she said. "She's your typical daddy's girl."
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