by Adam Ghassemi
HENDERSONVILLE, Tenn. – At Hendersonville Christian Academy, students had a special lunch assignment Tuesday: surprise the boys' basketball coach who just returned from deployment.
"I hope he's excited," student Nate Musgrave said.
The problem is Coach Daniel Sanders already had different plans.
"He thinks that he's actually going to come in and surprise you guys," HCA Athletic Director John Taylor told the crowded gym. "He doesn't know, he doesn't have any idea of what's going to happen."
Senior Julia Harmon isn't sure how he'll take it.
"He's kind of laid back so he's going to be like really shocked, but he'll definitely, definitely be surprised," she said. "I hope he sees how much we've missed him."
Just before noon, Sanders showed up to cheering students.
"I haven't done anything special so I don't really deserve all this, but thank you all. I missed you guys," he told them.
Sanders, U.S. Army Reservist, says it was great enough seeing family and friends welcome him at the airport over the weekend, but the school is his extended family.
"You never know what you have until it's not there anymore," he said about this ten-month deployment to Qatar.
"I was just going to just walk in unannounced and say ‘hey I'm back', but they got me. They pulled one over pretty well today," he said.
During the deployment Sanders even kept up with some students on Facebook.