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October 1, 2014

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Family treasures dad’s surprise return from Afghanistan

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Leila Navidi

U.S. Air Force Capt. John Costa surprises his daughters Ally, 10, and Tally, 6, by appearing at the end of the “Sirens of TI” show at Treasure Island in Las Vegas on Tuesday, June 4, 2013. Costa was deployed for a year-long tour in Afghanistan.

Capt. Costa's Homecoming

U.S. Air Force Capt. John Costa surprises his daughters by appearing at the end of the Launch slideshow »

Talk about surprises.

After a recent "Sirens of TI" show, Ally and Tally Costa will have one to talk about for years.

The little girls first watched the Sirens bring down a pirate ship with supernatural powers, surrounded by explosions of fire and water, bursts of song and dance.

But the best part?

"Ladies and gentlemen," a siren announced at show's end, "TI is proud to introduce to you and welcome home Capt. John 'Arrow' Costa!"

Then their daddy popped up onstage and waved to them — home early from a yearlong deployment in Qatar, Afghanistan.

The shock of seeing her dad brought tears to the eyes of 10-year-old Ally, who clapped and clapped until she could hug her dad and cry.

Ally, who is 6 years old and a foot shorter, didn't cry. She smiled wide and waved to her dad with two hands until she could wrap her arms around his neck and squeeze, telling everyone on the pirate ship, "he's my dad."

Costa, a trainer of F-16 fighter pilots with the U.S. Air Force and supporter of Operation Enduring Freedom, had returned home the day before. When he found out he'd be home a week early, he called his wife, Lori, and tried to figure out how to surprise his daughters.

His original plans were not as elaborate as they'd later become.

"It was amazing," Costa said after the surprise. "This is more than I ever imagined."

Costa's boss Lt. Col. Scott "Kidd" Poteet felt determined to make his friend's homecoming unforgettable.

It's complicated, but, as Costa understands it, Poteet knew a guy who knew a guy — and before Costa knew it, he was in rehearsal to prepare for the surprise show.

Before the theatrical reunion, Costa's affection had to be funneled through FaceTime and phone calls. Over his 15-year career in the Air Force, Costa had deployed many times, but never for an entire year.

The longest stint before the last one was 220 days.

"Nothing compares to a year apart," said Lori Costa, standing next to her family.

"I just missed them so much," John Costa said.

Ally had trouble finding the words to describe how she felt. But she was sure her tears were "tears of enjoyment."

"I missed him," she said. "I don't know to explain it."

And she didn't have to do any explaining. Tally, the little one, summed it up pretty well when she described how she felt.

"Gooood," she said, dragging out the vowel.

Costa's contract has him stationed at Nellis Air Force Base until the end of 2014. When those orders expire, he hopes he'll be able to stay home.

"I want to stay with them as long as I can," Costa said.

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