What could be more exciting for a 9-year-old girl than winning four free ice cream cups at Sweet Frog?

Katie Mount captured that prize Monday at an assembly for her fourth-grade class at Stafford County’s Park Ridge Elementary School.

But then she got something even better.

“We also have an extra special grand prize for Katie today,” announced Assistant Principal Ashley Hall.

Someone tapped Katie’s shoulder from behind. She turned around to find her dad, U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Brent Mount, who has been serving as a mission planner in Afghanistan since July.

Mount swooped Katie up into his arms. The crowd of Katie’s classmates cheered while dad and daughter shared a few emotional moments in a happy embrace.

“It was way better than Sweet Frog,” Katie said a little later.

Katie’s mom, Kelly Mount, arranged the surprise with the school. “I had no idea it would turn out to be such a big deal,” Kelly Mount said. “We’re amazed with how it’s all come together.”

Katie and her dad were surrounded by cameras and microphones after their reunion. Several TV stations and other news organizations were there, peppering them with questions.

One reporter asked, “Katie, how did you feel when you turned around and saw your dad?”

“Excited and happy,” she said, hugging his arm like she would never let it go. “I’m just glad he’s home.”

Mount said the hardest thing about his deployment was being away from Katie.

“I really missed the little witty one right here,” he said. “I won’t leave her again.”

Mount said he knew it would be difficult to be away, but he also knew he couldn’t avoid deployment at some point. After serving 12 1/2 years in the Air Force, Mount has been in the Army for the last 3 1/2.

“I chose this one so I could get it out of the way,” Mount said. “Now I’m looking forward to having some time off to spend with her.”

He’ll be based at Fort Meade in Maryland and doesn’t expect to serve another deployment.

The whole Sweet Frog assembly was a fabrication devised by Assistant Principal Hall. The ice cream and frozen yogurt shop donated gift certificates to all 120 fourth-grade students and their five teachers, as well as a real prize for Katie of the four ice cream cups. Sweet Frog mascots “Scoop” and “Cookie” were there high-fiving the students.

“Ashley is great at making things like this really fun,” said Principal Keana Butler. “It’s a very exciting day for everyone.”

Mission Barbecue provided lunch for the fourth-grade teachers and the Mount family.

Katie’s teacher, Ronette Braithwaite–Johnson, was planning to be out of town—a substitute was teaching her class today.

“But I had to come back and see all this,” Johnson said. “It’s just too exciting to miss!”

Before Katie’s classmates left, they joined Butler in an enthusiastic chorus: “Thanks for your service, Mr. Mount!”

“[I’m] excited and happy,” said Katie Mount, hugging the arm of dad Brent, a soldier who had just surprised his daughter after returning home from a six-month deployment. “I’m just glad he’s home.”

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Emily Jennings: 540/735-1975

ejennings@freelancestar.com