June 15, 2014 at 12:49 PM ET
There’s nothing quite like a surprise military reunion to make even the toughest among us shed tears, and this latest one, which happened on Father’s Day and was captured by TODAY, is no exception.
Marine Master Sergeant Christopher Willenbecher returned from Afghanistan two weeks earlier than expected to surprise his sons Cole, 10 and Cade, 5, at Camp Pendleton in California with the help of his ex-wife and TODAY.
The boys leapt into their father’s arms and there were plenty of tears and kisses to go around.
“It was unbelievable,” Willenbacher told Erica Hill and Lester Holt moments later. “I mean they’ve grown so much in the last nine months so to see them after nine months was an unbelievable feeling.”
Willenbacher credited the military’s public affairs office and TODAY producers with helping him make it home for Father’s Day.
“We just happened to get lucky and catch [TODAY producers] on a flight and get out there in time so I could get home to say hi to my sons on Father’s Day,” he said. “It was an amazing event and I’ll never forget it in my entire life.”
And, as a perfect Father’s Day gift for Willenbacher, when his adorable 5-year-old son Cade was asked what the first thing he said to his dad, he responded, “I love him.”