Parents

Military dad leaves 190 chocolate 'goodnight kisses' for his son, 1 for each night of deployment

Heading overseas for his first deployment away from his family, Air Force Maj. Steve Dillenburger wanted to make sure that his son still went to bed each night with a kiss from daddy.

Dillenburger, 36, put 190 Hershey's Kisses in a jar for his son Sean, 3, for every day he would be in Kuwait, from April 17 to Oct. 25, when he returned home to Annandale, Virginia.

"It was just something sweet at the end of the night and a reminder that (Steve) was thinking about him and loves him,'' mom Mary Ellen Dillenburger, 32, told TODAY.

The dwindling supply in the jar also meant it was one day closer to his return. The last week before Dillenburger returned was filled with excitement because there were only a handful left.

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Steve gave Sean a kiss for real in a joyous reunion last month that was captured on video by family friend Katie Sheridan.

"It was really sweet," Mary Ellen said. "I was excited to see my son run out there, so I kind of hung back a little bit and watched how excited how happy he was to have daddy home finally."

MaryEllen Dillenburger
This was Steve Dillenburger's first deployment away from his wife, Mary Ellen, son Sean, 3, and daughter Ann Marie, 1, since the birth of the children.

Steve, who declined an interview with TODAY, got the idea for the Hersey's Kisses from a military colleague who had done the same thing with her son.

This marked Steve's first deployment since the birth of Sean and his sister, Ann Marie, who just celebrated her first birthday this week.

Every night, Sean would eat a Hershey's Kiss and then brush his teeth and go to bed. He took the jar on family trips to four other states so he wouldn't miss a day.

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"We're lucky because we were able to FaceTime with him while he was gone, so it wasn't like he was never able to see them, but this was just a great way to end each day,'' Mary Ellen said.

Veterans Day also marked the Dillenburgers' fifth wedding anniversary.

"So many go through this all the time, and we were lucky it was a relatively short deployment in a relatively safe place,'' Mary Ellen said.

"It's just nice to have a spotlight on all the military families because you can't understand what it's like until you go through it."

Follow TODAY.com writer Scott Stump on Twitter.

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