Grab some tissues! You’re going to need them …
Rob Stella, who has been in the Navy for more than 20 years, returned home from his final deployment last week (Dec. 5) and gave his unsuspecting children the surprise of a lifetime while posing for their holiday photo.
“It couldn’t have gone more perfectly. Santa was pretty helpful. It was a good time,” Stella — who had been deployed in Bahrain for a year — reportedly told ABC News.
“I was supposed to fly back from the Middle East on the 4th, but I got bumped from that and was pushed back a few days so my kids didn’t think I’d be home. On Thanksgiving Day though, we found out that myself and my guys on my command would still be able to make that flight, so my wife knew but my kids didn’t.”
In planning Stella’s surprise, his wife coordinated his hiding spot behind Santa’s chair with the local mall’s manager.
“I was hidden behind the bench as people were getting their photos taken with Santa,” Stella explained. “I could hear my kids and I know their voice, and the signal was going to be ‘1, 2, 3’ for the lady taking the picture, and then I’d know they would be looking at her so I could pop up and be in the background.”
As the plan unfolded, and Stella popped up in the kids’ picture, others in line began laughing which prompted his youngest son to turn around and catch a glimpse of his dad. The other two kids followed suit with his daughter, Maddie, bursting into tears.
It was such a beautiful reunion and the whole thing was captured on video so the family can cherish the moment for years to come.
“You feel so bad when you have to leave and you feel like you’re breaking their heart,” Stella said. “But after that time away and getting to surprise them like this, it almost makes it worth its while. The hardest thing I’ve done in years is telling them I’m going away.”
Stella said his kids are beyond happy to have him home and little Maddie hasn’t left his side. What made the surprise even more special for her is that it happened just one day before her 10th birthday. She got a 2-for-1 special! Her father got to be present for her birthday and will be a part of Christmas.
Banner Photo Credit: Twitter @WordSmithGuy