Returning Soldier Surprises Mother While She's at Work

Denise Sterns thought her son, Larry, was coming home weeks later.

August 16, 2016, 1:42 PM

— -- A Phoenix mom literally leapt for joy, and into her son’s arms, when her soldier son surprised her at work.

Denise Sterns was doing janitorial work at Phoenix’s Central Station when a security guard, who was in on the surprise, asked her to help with a cleanup in a certain area of the plaza. As Sterns was walking to the site, she noticed something out of the corner of her eye.

Sitting on a ledge, pretending to read a newspaper, was her only child, Larry Sterns, 26, who serves in the 101st Airborne Division of the Army at Fort Campbell in Kentucky.

"I saw the Airborne patch and thought maybe I should say something, to thank him for his service," Denise Sterns told ABC News today. "Then I saw him starting to laugh, in his profile, and realized it was Larry."

"I couldn’t even believe it," said Denise Sterns, who can be seen in a YouTube video of the surprise jumping into Larry's arms and wrapping her legs around him. "I didn’t even know what to think because I just couldn’t believe it."

Denise Sterns last saw her son in January, when he left for the Army. She said saying goodbye to him then was the hardest thing she has ever done.

"I live at home with my dad and it was just my dad, Larry and I and when he left it was just so hard," she said. "This was the first time I saw him in his uniform and when he stood up, after I was done hugging, he was standing so tall and so proud."

Denise Sterns' dad, Terry Sterns, and brother, Hugh Sterns, coordinated the surprise with Larry Sterns and were off to the side filming the emotional reunion.

"Everything went much better than what he even envisioned," Hugh Sterns told ABC News, speaking of his nephew, Larry. "It was a big moment."

Larry was able to stay home for nine days. He will be deployed in November and Sterns said she is so grateful she got to spend this time with him.

"Raising a child is not the hardest part, saying goodbye is the hardest part," she said. "This was such an emotional experience."

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