SUMTER, SC (WACH) -- A Midlands military mom returned from the Middle East to surprise her 15-year-old daughter at school Tuesday.
"I am nervous," said Army Maj. Laura Byrd as she waited backstage in the auditorium at her daughter's school. "I feel like I'm about to pass out."
Byrd arrived back in South Carolina from her deployment Monday, but her daughter, Dejsha Tatum, believed her mom was still in Kuwait.
"I talked to her this morning, so she has no idea that I'm actually here," said Byrd. "I'm a single parent. I had no one to greet me at the airport, but this is worth it all -- the surprise to her."
Before her arrival home, Byrd had talked with school officials to orchestrate the surprise. Dejsha was under the impression Tuesday that she was attending a military forum in the auditorium. Members of the military spoke, then welcomed the next speaker to the stage.
That speaker was Dejsha's mother.
Dejsha left her seat and met her mother at the front of the auditorium in a teary embrace, but the light-hearted duo was soon cracking jokes -- happy to be a family united again.
"She's been asking me when I'm coming home," said Byrd. "I said, 'I'll be home before my birthday.'"
"I just didn't want to miss her birthday," said Dejsha, wiping away tears. "I didn't want her to be over there [in Kuwait] through her birthday."
That's a day Dejsha won't be missing. She reunited with her mom two weeks before her birthday. They had been apart since last August.