SCHENECTADY -- Veterans Day is right there on the calendar this weekend, but Army Lt. Col. Kevin Ferreira's return home was not.
At least not as far as his 15-year-old daughter Shea and 12-year-old daughter Elcie knew.
He surprised them with an early homecoming during a pre-game ceremony at Messa Rink Saturday night just before puck drop for the Union-St. Lawrence hockey game.
As they were at center ice, he emerged from the locker room tunnel, and a second later they had leapt into his arms with screams and tears.
Ferreira, who has served in the military for 25 years, completed his fourth overseas tour, this time a nine-month stint in Afghanistan that was scheduled to end in a few weeks. He arrived in Schenectady two hours before the game.
"My girls think I'm still in Afghanistan for a couple more weeks," said Ferreira before the game. "So I thought there's no better way. We love coming to the Union hockey games.
"This is my fourth deployment with them, and this one's been pretty hard on them, I think, the older they get. All of this aligned, and I guess it's pretty amazing that it happened right on Veterans Day weekend, as well. To get home ... it's been a long go at it."
Shea and Elcie are students in the Mohonasen School District.
Kevin Ferreira, whose most recent deployment was with the 1st Armored Division, Combat Aviation Brigade, said the family has been attending Union hockey games for the last 10 years.
"Shea is 15. She's an all-star cheerleader and just a happy-go-lucky girl, and Elcie is 12 and in seventh grade, a great soccer player and, again, just happy-go-lucky," he said.
"The family, I think, actually has the harder job. Quite honestly, I think they deserve just as much or more recognition for what they do back here."