"It's been the first time I've been away from them since we've been together, so it's been hard," John said.
Private John Smith has been away at basic Army training in Missouri for the past eight weeks.
His young kids knew he would be coming home for Christmas, they just didn't know which day.
That's when their mom decided to make John's visit a Christmas surprise.
"Just so they, to see their reactions and everything, to make it more exciting for them," said Brittany Smith.
Like many kids their age, five and seven-year-olds Ethan and Dakota Smith, were excited when their mom told them they were going to see Santa at Owensboro's Town Square Mall. But when Dakota and Ethan got to the mall their dad was there, too.
"They was just totally shocked. I mean, they about tackled their dad and they did not know what to say," Brittany said.
Private Smith tells 14 News that being away from his family hasn't been easy.
"Receiving letters from them helps me out a lot, too and pictures," John said.
But John says the family's biggest gift this year is being under one roof for Christmas.
"We're together, so that completes the holidays for us," Brittany said.
Private Smith tells 14 News that after the holidays, he has about 15 more weeks of Army training left. Smith says he'll get to see his family again before graduation.
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