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Military son surprises family with holiday homecoming

It seemed like a normal day for Russellville Elementary teacher Monica Farris, even when a co-worker presented her with a special Christmas present – a picture of her son, Lance Cpl. Stephen Farris of the United States Marine Corps.

After opening the picture, screams of joy filled the air and tears began to flow as she saw her son walking through the cafeteria toward her.

“I think it was just a combination of great coworkers and amazing leadership in the school to really keep this quiet from me,” she said. “It turned out to be the most amazing surprise that I’ve ever experienced.”

Stephen was not expected to be home from his deployment in Okinawa, Japan, until the spring, when his younger brother will graduate from high school. He said he knew when he left before Mother’s Day that the holidays would be hard for his family, not having him at home for the first time.

“When I left in May, I told my family I didn’t expect to be able to be back for Christmas,” he said.

After talking to recruiters to see if he would be able to work the holidays in the recruiter’s office in Florence, he said he spent several months planning his return home and the surprise his family would receive.

The only family member who knew of his return was his dad, Scot, who contacted the school to make sure everyone kept the secret and helped with the surprise.

“That is what is crazy about it to me – is that so many people were able to keep this as surprise,” Monica said.

His mother was not the only one who received a surprise. Stephen also made a trip to surprise his brother Luke and his grandparents.

“When I surprised my grandmother, she was talking on the phone, and she just dropped the phone in the floor,” Stephen said. “She ran up to me and started hugging me and

crying.”

Monica said it was difficult preparing to spend this time of year without her son – including spending his 21st birthday without him and having several family birthdays without him home.

“He is definitely going to be home for a lot of important things, so it’s a special time in our family,” she said.

Stephen said what surprised him the most about returning home was seeing how supportive the community was and how willing to help him put his plans in action.

“It’s amazing to see how people can come together and pull something off amazing like this,”

he said.

Monica said she has a new perspective, watching her son and the sacrifices it takes to be in the military.

“I’ve had a greater perspective of the sacrifices mothers and families have to make for the freedom of our country,” she said.

Stephen will leave again for Okinawa early Jan. 1 but said he plans to spend as much time as possible with family while he can.

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