Son secretly returns home from overseas deployment and dresses up as Santa to surprise mom
When Santa arrived to help the Ocean County Medical Center maternity ward to celebrate their staff Christmas party, there was an extra-special reason to be merry. Most of the nurses had no idea that one among them was about to get the best surprise Christmas gift ever.
It was back in 2013 when nurse Leslie Ruggiero and the other ward nurses from the New Jersey hospital joined in the festivities. They were going to receive gifts as tokens of appreciation from the Center for their dedicated service.
They had planned Santa’s visit and had decked the room with poinsettias and a tree, decorated with bulbs, and festively lit up. Once everyone was present, a staff member, wearing a Santa hat and a bright-red sweater, stood in front of everyone with her list in hand. And, wouldn’t you know it, Leslie was the first one she called to come up and receive her gift: a card.
It turns out that this card was special, though, for it came from someone very close to Leslie’s heart: her son, who was serving as an Army specialist in Afghanistan. Her colleague instructed her to read it, and Leslie immediately broke down in tears.
I am so incredible thankful for all the love and support you’ve given me through this entire deployment I will never forget it, or how blessed I am for having such a caring and wonderful mother.
She had wished that her “baby,” Travis, would be able to come home for the Holidays, but had accepted that it wasn’t to be.
Then, as Leslie continued sobbing, everyone else in the room watched on as Santa (who had been sitting behind her the whole time) stood up and did something no one had expected. He took off his hat, removed his beard and his wig—and everyone gasped in awe at who it was.
Suddenly, Leslie turned around and came face to face with Travis, who wasn’t at all in Afghanistan but was right in front of her with open arms. She could hardly believe her eyes as she embraced her son joyfully.
It was “the best Christmas present ever,” Leslie declared. But it had taken careful planning on Travis’s part; he had collaborated with staff to pull it off, but only two of them knew about who he was the whole time.
“It started off as such an uneventful day,’’ Leslie told TODAY. “[I] got to work the holiday season, and then it’s amazing how just one little incident can just change your life, your day, forever. I’m still in awe that he pulled this off.”
Travis later shared what motivated his surprise visit. “This year was different,” he said, “because she was like, ‘All I want for Christmas is for you to be home.’”
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This Christmas present is the best one ever for these kids, one they’ll never forget