LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - For the Clark family, their morning at the Louisville Zoo started off like any other. Four-year-old Cody, his brother Caleb and their mother Christine got a sneak peek behind the giraffe exhibit at the zoo and fed dry pellets to the tallest animals in the world. But there was one person absent from the boys' fun with the giraffe - their father, Staff Sergeant Lee Clark.
Lee Clark is a Marine who's spent the last few months serving in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
"It is hard sometimes. But, you know, you just gotta keep on going and remember what it's all for," said Christine Clark about living without her husband.
Unbeknownst to Cody and Caleb, that was all changed Thursday morning with one big surprise. Lee Clark walked into the exhibit in full uniform, though he was playfully disguised as a would-be zookeeper with bright green leafy stalks hiding his face. When Lee revealed who he was, one of his sons stood in disbelief with his mouth agape, while it took his younger brother a few seconds to register just who it was.
"Who is that? Who is that?" Christine asked her two boys.
"Hi!" said Lee Clark with a big grin. "You don't know me, do you?"
Without hesitation, the younger of the two boys shouted, "Daddy!"
With that, Lee picked up both of his sons and gave them a big hug.
"I just wanted to drop the food and grab my kids and just hold them and hug them," Lee said. "I think they might not understand the whole concept, but they want to be here. They're enjoying the zoo. It means a lot to them for daddy to be home with them."
Christine had her own reaction to the surprise, which she planned for the boys.
"It was awesome. It was great," she said. "Just seeing the boys' faces so excited. My 4-year-old, Cody, with his mouth dropped open."
Christine said she hopes her sons keep the day with them.
"Just the memories. It'll be something for the boys," said Christine. "Every time we come to the zoo, it'll be 'That's where daddy came.'"