APPLETON -- An Appleton family got their Christmas present early this year after a 5-year-old boy wrote a letter to Santa, asking to see his dad, serving overseas, home for the holidays.
"We want Daddy to come home," said Mary Niedland.
Niedland and her two sons had not seen Dad in months.
"Troy has been gone for seven months," said Niedland. "He was deployed, and he hasn't seen our kids since April, so today, we are surprising them by Daddy coming home."
Niedland's husband, Troy, had been serving with a United States Marines unit in Japan. She said the summer was hard on her family while Troy was away. That changed on Saturday.
"I have the butterflies so bad," said Niedland. "I don't know how the boys are going to react because they have no idea. I'm excited. I'm nervous. I'm so ready for it.
Drake and Harvey had no clue their dad was coming home early from Japan. In fact, Drake wrote a letter to Santa, asking if his dad could come home for Christmas. Little did he know his dream would come true sooner, rather than later. The surprise left the 5-year-old at a loss for words.
"Honestly, none of it really felt real until right in this moment when I walked in the tent," said Troy Niedland.
Mary and Troy found out Troy would be coming home just a few weeks before the big surprise.
"You don't realize how much you miss until you're gone for that amount of time," said Troy Niedland. "Just as an example, when I left Harvey, the younger one, he was still babbling, and now he can say strong, full sentences and talk."
Troy said he was thinking of others who serve who won't get to see their families during the holiday season.
"Thank you for doing what you have to do so that I can come home and be with my family, and then maybe in the future, we will reciprocate that so that you can be home and I'll be in your place," said Troy Niedland.