MINNEAPOLIS -- Annie and Alex Buresh had no clue what awaited them as they ran the bases at Target Field on Sunday before the Twins' game against the Tigers.
As the sisters cruised past first, their father, Master Sergeant Robert Buresh, hid behind the T.C. Bear near home plate. When they rounded third, he appeared, giving his daughters their first in-person glimpse of him since Jan. 9.
He went to a knee and dropped the three flower bouquets and two teddy bears from his arms, wrapping his two girls up and showering them with kisses as the 38,710 in attendance responded with a standing ovation.
Buresh returned stateside Saturday night after a near-five-month deployment overseas. He served his sixth career deployment at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, as a member of the 109th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron of the 133rd Airlift Wing, Minnesota National Guard. His wife, Julie, was aware of his return, but they kept it a secret to surprise Annie, 11, and Alex, 8.
Moments after the teary-eyed reunion, Robert struggled to compose himself and explain the rush of emotions. His hands shook, his feet wobbled, and perspiration glistened on his forehead.
"That was a lot more nerve-wracking than I thought it was going to be," he said. "It feels awesome. I can't put it into words."
Buresh originally planned on surprising his daughters at school. But when he learned his return was scheduled for Memorial Day weekend, he nixed that plan because he didn't want to wait until Tuesday to see them. Buresh learned from a squadron mate that the Twins were supplying free tickets to the unit and their families a day earlier. He contacted the team, which helped arrange the on-field surprise.
"The hardest part was not being able to come to the park," said Buresh, who lives in Kasson. "I was encouraged strongly to not be here any time before 12:20. So I was walking around downtown Minneapolis holding bears and flowers. Everybody looked at me like I looked funny."
But Buresh's patience was rewarded -- and it went beyond the emotion of the initial surprise.
"When I found out I was coming to the game, I wanted my first meal here in the states to be a dog and a beer," he said. "And I get to have it with my family.
"I got to Baltimore last night about 9:30 Eastern time. I ate on the plane before we landed. My butterflies were so bad I don't think it would have stayed down anyways."
He said he couldn't think of a better way to spend the day than watching baseball with his family.
"This is a moment they are going to remember for the rest of their lives," he said. "As a dad, I can't ask for any more. That's just fantastic. I can't tell you how grateful I am for doing this."
Annie and Alex thought their dad would be home at "the end of May or the beginning of June." They had no idea Sunday would be the day they reunited. The time apart had been "pretty hard," Annie said, but they couldn't wipe the ear-to-ear grins off their faces.
Said Alex, "I thought that my mom kept a pretty good secret."