A California family got the surprise of a lifetime when a Christmas trip to visit Santa at a mall turned into an unexpected reunion.
Airman Nhavi Mendoza has been stationed overseas for the last six months and his family wasn’t expecting to see him for the holidays, according to ABC’s Palm Springs affiliate KESQ-TV.
Mendoza’s 3-year-old son Renaldo, Mendoza’s wife Elizabeth, and parents were at Westfield Palm Desert shopping mall getting the toddler’s photo taken with Santa over the weekend.
Renaldo told Santa he wanted “blocks and my daddy” for Christmas, according to KESQ-TV. His wish came true immediately when Mendoza sprang out of a giant gift box, surprising his family.
The shocked family cried as shoppers burst into applause.
“It’s an honor to serve my country, but I miss my family so much,” Mendoza told KESQ-TV. “This couldn’t have been a better present for all of us.”