Marine Sergeant Returns From Afghanistan to Surprise Sons on Father's Day

Ralphie Aversa
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Marine Sergeant Returns From Afghanistan to Surprise Sons on Father's Day

Just in time for Father's Day, a U.S. Marine returned home and surprised his two children.

Marine Master Sgt. Christopher Willenbecher spent the past nine months in Afghanistan. It was his seventh and last deployment before he retires later this year. Willenbecher's sons, Cole, 10, and Cade, 5, didn't think their father would be back in the U.S. for Father's Day.

What the boys did not know was that their parents, along with the military's public affairs office and "Today" show producers, were working to change that. Willenbecher was allowed to leave two weeks early, and the staff from the NBC morning show helped coordinate a reunion that played out on live TV. The boys' mother brought them to Camp Pendleton, a major Marine Corps base located in Southern California. There, Willenbecher walked into a room where his unsuspecting sons were waiting.

"Baseball stars, huh?" the Marine sergeant asked as soon as he saw them. The older brother, Cole, screamed, "Daddy!" and sprinted to him as fast as he could. Cade followed and also ran to give his father a hug.

After jumping into their father's arms, the boys along with both their dad and mom, Jodi, sat down to talk about the emotional moment.

"Mom said that he wasn't coming home until the 18th," Cole said during an interview on "Today." "And then, I was surprised when we came here because he's been away for nine months. I missed him."

Of course, the feeling was mutual.

"It was unbelievable," Willenbecher said of the moment. "They've grown so much in the last nine months. Just to see them after nine months was an unbelievable feeling. It was an amazing event, and I'll never forget it in my entire life."