WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- The men and women who serve our county sacrifice a lot. Some leave their families for long periods of time and miss important moments. Today, one little girl got an early birthday present all the way from Afghanistan.
Birthdays and holidays can be difficult as their loved ones are worlds away fighting for our freedom. But five-year-old Madison Fragoso got an extra special birthday present this year.
"I just can't wait to see her," Madison's dad Daniel said. "It's been eight months. It's always a change when I come home."
Daniel returned from Afghanistan Tuesday, just in time to surprise his daughter Madison for her birthday. A former soldier who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, Daniel has been overseas since October as a contractor developing communication strategies for the military.
He says he likes to create memories with his family so they remember the milestones, not the miles, when he's away.
"I'm doing this while she's young in the hopes that she won't remember (me being away), because I don't want her to remember that I was away for so long," Daniel said.
After hours on a plane and days of planning, Daniel gave his daughter a gift shipped with love. Inside the box was her Daddy.
Daniel's wife Rachel was the mastermind behind the surprise. She says after watching a show of military homecomings with her daughter, she knew she had to do something special when Daniel finally came home.
"She was like, 'I want my daddy to jump out of a box,' and I was like, 'OK, we'll keep that in mind,'" Rachel said.
Rachel says it's hard getting by day to day without Daniel, but moments they can share make it all worth it.
"It's a big sacrifice on us every single day," Rachel said. "Waking up without him, going to bed without him. Missing volunteering. I'm here volunteering a lot at her school, and that's a big deal that he can't be there with us.
As for Madison, she says she has big plans for her dad while he's home.
"I wanna go bowling," she said.
Daniel returns to Afghanistan in July, but he hopes to be home for good soon.