A 10-year-old boy who wrote his deployed Marine dad a letter got to share it with him in person instead.
As Hayden Nieznanski read the letter to his class at the YMCA in Laguna Niguel, California — with his 5-year-old brother, Maxwell, at his side — their dad, Marine Master Sgt. Jeremy Nieznanski, walked right in.
The class whooped with joy when they realized who had joined them, while it took Hayden a few seconds to process that his dad was really there.
"At first, I just saw his uniform and I just thought it was a random Marine walking in," Hayden later told KCBS. "Then I looked up and I saw his face."
The boys jumped into their dad's arms before he took a closer look at the letter.
"So you wrote a letter? This is to me?" Nieznanski said. "Well, I came home today, I'm back."
Nieznanski had been overseas for more than seven months on his sixth deployment, and his sons expected him home in two months.
"It means everything to me, to see my wife and my kids today," he said.
His wife, Amanda, helped orchestrate the surprise. Nieznanski praised her for being the "real hero" for taking care of the children, working and for putting "out all the fires" while he was away.
"I feel like we've all went through a lot," she added. "To have him home is an overwhelming feeling, to be able to surprise them, it's an overwhelming feeling."
After the surprise, Nieznanski reunited with his third son, who is 1, at his day care.