BLANCHESTER, Ohio -- Little James Croot wanted something for Christmas that couldn't be wrapped in paper or placed under a tree.
The 7-year-old read his letter to Santa in front of Harlan-Butlerville Elementary School Friday, but he didn’t ask for toys.
He asked for his dad, Aaron Croot, an Air Force staff sergeant who had been deployed for nine months.
“I love you when you are away from me, and I love you so much when you are near me,” James said in his letter. “I love you when you are deployed, and I miss you so bad.
“I really want to stay with you all the time, but I know that sometimes I can’t be with you… I just wanted to write you this card to tell you that I miss you, and I wish you could come home from Christmas.”
What James didn’t know is that his dad would be home for Christmas. In fact, he was listening from around the corner.
Watch the full video in the player below:
"I didn't know he wrote a letter until that day pretty much,” Aaron Croot said. “I almost cried right there before I even saw him."
Aaron Croot walked into the gymnasium, and the crowd erupted in cheers as he embraced his little boy for the first time in nine months.
James smiled as his father, his hero, kissed his cheeks.
"I really didn't know that he was coming, and it was that moment that he came… It was really hard,” James said. “I started to cry when I saw him."
Now, James, his 4-year-old brother Jacob, 2-year-old sister Evie, mom and dad will be able to spend Christmas and New Years together before the family moves to Germany in January.
Read James' full letter to his father:
“Thanks daddy for being my great big hero. I just want to give you a special card and thank you so much. I love you, daddy. I love you when you are away from me, and I love you so much when you are near me. I love you when you are deployed, and I miss you so bad. I really want to stay with you all the time, but I know that sometimes I can’t be with you. You are my daddy, all mine, but I still love you and miss you when I’m at school and you are at work. I wish you were here, but you are in Turkey and doing stuff with our military and keeping us all safe. I just wanted to write you this card to tell you that I miss you, and I wish you could come home from Christmas.”