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Soldier surprises family with trip home for Christmas

By Katherine Mozzone, KTVM Reporter, kmozzone@ktvm.com
Published On: Dec 20 2013 05:34:57 PM MST
Updated On: Dec 20 2013 09:02:25 PM MST
BOZEMAN, Mont. -

Christmas came a little early for a Bozeman family Friday. It had been months since the Thompson family had seen their soldier overseas.

Last month, kids at Anderson School packed up an Adopt-A-Sox box filled with goodies for their loved ones overseas. Friday, Rylie Thompson was looking forward to watching her brother Tanner open up his package via Skype.

Halfway through the call, the soldier lost his connection, or so students thought.

"The cue was, there was supposed to be letters at the bottom, like the ones I received in Italy, so I was already ready to click 'end call' so, when I was reaching for the letters I clicked it," explains Tanner.

When students tried calling back...Tanner walked through the door.

"I thought, just, it's a miracle for Christmas because he said he couldn't make it," says Rylie Thompson.

Tanner planned the surprise with his mother and older sister. But he told his father a new assignment would mean he wouldn't be home for Christmas.

"We figured we'd have a window or a few seconds to a minute to talk to him after class, but I didn't expect to see him walk through the door," says Mitch Thompson.

Tanner's father, Mitch, was standing in the back of the classroom.

"I can't even put it into words. I was so overcome with emotion. It still gets to me...It's the best Christmas present I could ever get," says Mitch.

Tanner says it wasn't too difficult to keep the secret on his end and hoped folks in Bozeman could keep their end of the bargain. Yet, Tanner says he, too, was surprised when he walked into the Anderson School classroom.

"I was kind of shocked because I wasn't expecting anything like this," says Tanner.

Now, the Thompsons are looking forward to spending as much time together as possible until Tanner ships out on the first.

"It's nice to see them all, I just want to spend time with them and relax. Not really do anything besides that," says Tanner.

We asked Rylie and Mitch what it means for Tanner to spend the holidays with his family in Bozeman.

"It's just a blessing to have him home," says Rylie.

"It's complete. My family's here -- all my kids get to spend it together," says Mitch.

Tanner flew in Thursday and will go back to his base in Vicenza, Italy, on January 1.

Mitch tells NBC Montana he has a deep appreciation for all of our servicemen and women and what they do for their country -- how much they sacrifice, especially when it comes to spending time away from their family.