Amber Cook began to worry after her father, Matthew, didn’t return her Twitter messages or texts during the past two days. She had a lot to talk about, with a wedding planned in July.

But on Tuesday, Cook’s apprehension melted into pure joy after Matthew surprised her and four of his other children at Chick-fil-A in Greenwood, revealing himself to be the man inside the cow costume to hugs and cries of happiness from his family.

Cook, 40, has been in Kuwait since January. A staff sergeant attached to the U.S. Army Central Noncommissioned Officers Academy, he’s on leave through Father’s Day before returning stateside in November.

He wanted to make the most of every moment he can spend with his children, and catching them off guard at one of their favorite restaurants was a great start, he said.

The Greenwood native joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1996, and has been in the Army since 2007. He planned the reunion carefully, avoiding any contact with his children to keep the secret — a challenge, since they’re so close to one another.

“This is the most wonderful moment, being able to surprise my kids and seeing their reaction,” Cook said. “They had no clue.”

Amber said the most recent memory she had of her and Matthew together was just before he left, when he inspected her car.

“I just want him to be here for when I finally get married,” she said, with Matthew dressed up and waving to patrons just over her shoulder. “I’m very proud of my dad.”

So too is Amber’s younger brother, Amarion.

“He’s a sweet, kind-hearted father, and he do a lot for us,” the 10-year-old said. “When he’s home, he takes us out places and I’m proud of my dad, because he works so hard.”

A hero to his 5-year-old daughter, Aria Harrison, as well, she wrapped herself around him and asked to feel his muscles.

Contact staff writer Adam Benson at 864-943-5650 or on Twitter @ABensonIJ.