-- Julie Hartmann-Garcia is a mother of four who only had one simple wish on her Christmas list this year: to have her entire family home in Groton, Conn., for the first time in three years.
“Especially in the holidays, I think that’s the hardest,” Hartmann-Garcia said of being apart from her kids.
Hartmann-Garcia’s four sons were all set to fulfill their mom’s Christmas wish until her 21-year-old son, Nicholas Hartmann, a U.S. Marine, and his wife, Victoria, 19, were unable to afford the cross-country trip from California to the family’s home in Groton.
“During the holidays, she calls me like a thousand times, you know,” Nicholas Hartmann told “Good Morning America." “She has so much love for us and us not being there for the holidays is a heartbreaker for her.”
The last time the Hartmann family was close to reuniting was last year at the Victoria and Nicholas Hartmann's wedding.
That plan fell apart when the deployment date for Hartmann-Garcia’s oldest son, Michael Hartmann, a 27-year-old specialist in the U.S. Army, was moved up to the exact day of his brother's wedding.
“They changed the date, like four times,” Hartmann-Garcia recalled.
Instead of celebrating with Nicholas and Victoria in person, Michael had to deliver his best man's toast via video.
“The Army has seen it fit for me to go do its business,” Michael said in the emotional video. “I hope you all do me the honor of raising your glass to the happy couple and give them our best wishes on this special day."
“He completely surprised me on that one,” said the groom. “So it was pretty sad.”
“So by the time that they see each other again it's going to be seven years,” Hartmann-Garcia said of her soldier sons.
What Hartmann-Garcia did not know is that her sons had a surprise worthy of Santa Claus up their sleeves.
While the youngest brother, Dominik Garcia, 14, stayed home in Groton with his dad, Hartmann-Garcia traveled to New York City with Michael and her fourth son, 18-year-old Zackary Garcia, a college student in Rhode Island.
The family came to appear on “GMA” for what they thought was a tribute to military families.
Instead, as Hartmann-Garcia spoke about the difficulties military families face around the families, she was connected by what she thought was a phone call with Nicholas and Victoria.
As they began to discuss the Christmas presents Hartmann-Garcia had sent them, the couple walked out and gave her the surprise of a lifetime, appearing before her in person.
“I can’t believe this,” Hartmann-Garcia said amid tears.
Hartmann-Garcia was equally shocked that her two other sons were in on the secret and had managed to keep it a surprise.
“You knew?,” she said to Michael. “Zak, you too?”
“It’s the best Christmas present anyone can ever give me,” she said. “Thank you everyone.”