Thursday was an emotional day for the Dennee family. For the past six months, Col. Rick Dennee has been stationed in Baghdad flying F-15s with the Air National Guard, and when his wife, Sarah, found out seven days ago that her husband was coming home early, she enlisted the Washington Capitals to plan an elaborate surprise.
"Anticipation was probably the worst part of it -- 28 hours on a flight trying to get over here once I left Iraq to get back here, trying to make sure the flight got here on time," Col. Dennee said. "We beat traffic, standard D.C. traffic."
After reaching the Verizon Center just before game time, he shocked his 13-year-old daughter, Emily, in the lobby. But that was just the beginning.
Col. Dennee's 10-year-old son, Henry, participated in the pre-game flag ceremony, and little did he know, as soon as he stepped off the ice and into the tunnel, he was greeted by his father.
"Dad!" Henry screamed.
"It felt great having my son come up and seeing the tears in his eyes," Col. Dennee said. "It's good being reunited with my family. It's a special bond between a father and a son."
And what was it like to see Dad?
"Exciting," Henry said. "I didn’t even know that he was supposed to be home."
Capitals security and personnel couldn't help but get choked up as they watched. For Sarah Dennee, tears of joy flowed.
"It's hard because you have to try and be both the mom and the dad," she said. "You worry about him and you worry about your kids, and it's just really incredible when they come home. You feel like you're a whole person."
Next up for the Dennees -- a lot of QT.
"I'm going to watch some of his games on a flip video that I haven't been able to watch," the proud father said. "Just get the family together, sit down, have a quiet meal, go out, do something. Just relax."