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Deployed Air Force father surprises young sons at Lincoln Elementary in Prescott with early return

United States Air Force Staff Sgt. Ken Knobbe surprises eight-year-old son, Kameron, in his second-grade classroom at Lincoln Elementary School in Prescott. Knobbe is Prescott High alum. His wife, Annalise, is in the background. (Nanci Hutson/Courier)

United States Air Force Staff Sgt. Ken Knobbe surprises eight-year-old son, Kameron, in his second-grade classroom at Lincoln Elementary School in Prescott. Knobbe is Prescott High alum. His wife, Annalise, is in the background. (Nanci Hutson/Courier)

In a stealth mission like no other, United States Air Force Staff Sgt. Ken Knobbe sneaked inside a second-grade classroom at Lincoln Elementary just after noon on Wednesday, Nov. 6.

Dressed in combat fatigues, the short, dark-haired airman stepped quietly as he approached his target, a blond-haired boy listening to the Magic Treehouse story, “Polar Bears Past Bedtime.”

“DAD!” cried Kameron Knobbe as he leaped into his father’s arms hugging him tight around the neck.

Five days from Veterans Day, Knobbe surprised his second-grader and preschooler son, Kason, in their classrooms with his unexpected return from a Middle East security tour of duty started in March.

“What’s up dude?” Knobbe choked out as he kissed his son’s eager face to a chorus of oohs and aahs and applause from his classmates who along with Kameron were counting down the 27 days till Kameron expected his father’s return for the holidays.

“Daddy, I missed you!” Kameron said as his body was tightly wrapped around his father’s waist and his head buried into his shoulder.

For a solid five minutes, the class was enraptured with Kameron’s delight as he switched back and forth from silently peering into his Dad’s eyes as if to assure himself his father was holding him in his arms.

“I think he’s speechless,” declared his mother Annalise Halldorson Knobbe who picked up her Prescott High School sweetheart at the Sky Harbor International Airport just a couple hours before. He flew from a base in Spokane, Washington after returning from his duty post in an area he could describe to Kameron’s classmates only as a place where he was able to ride camels.

The young Knobbe family moved to Prescott from Spokane. Annalise and the two boys have been living with her mother, Sandra, with their Great Dane and Labrador retriever, since the 30-year-old career Air Force noncommissioned officer left on his overseas assignment. The family will remain together in Prescott through the holidays and then will be relocating to his next base in Colorado.

Within the next two years, Annalise said it is likely her husband will again be deployed for an unspecified assignment. His plan is to retire from the military in 10 years.

Kameron’s teacher, Kim Dillon, said she so appreciates the family sharing the surprise with her class that has been studying about Veterans Day and what it means to be in the military and serving others.

“He’s a super great kid. All the kids just love him. It’s so fun to be part of something that is so nice for him,” Dillon concluded.

Holding on tight to his father, Kameron departed his classroom. His father still had yet to complete his mission — a surprise reuniting visit with his younger son.

Again the moment left the adult witnesses —teachers, staff and family — wiping tears from their eyes.

“Daddy!” Kason exclaimed as he raced toward his father’s waiting arms. “I missed you.”

Kason’s classmates peppered their teacher Sandy Tuite-Libby with questions about Knobbe.

“Is he a soldier? He looks like a soldier,” shouted one little girl.

“This is just wonderful,” Tuite-Libby declared. “I have taught for 35 years, 30 years in New Hampshire and five years here, and this is the first time this has ever happened.”

Principal Karen Hughes was equally exuberant about the impact of such a surprise on everyone.

“We deal with a gambit of emotions at school every day. But this is the good stuff,” Hughes said. “I’m honored they wanted to do this at school. It made everyone on this campus so joyous.”

As they prepared for an early exit, both boys clamored for a place on their father’s hip.

First stop — Peter Piper Pizza. Then maybe a couple rounds of Super Mario Brothers.

Kameron informed his father that his little brother has become quite proficient at the video game.

With his arms full of boys, and his smiling wife and mother-in-law in tow, Knobbe was all smiles.

“I’m lucky.”

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