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'My hero!' Watch this Marine surprise his mom after 2 years apart

/ Source: TODAY

It was story time for Paula Riggs' third-grade class at Schrader Elementary School in New Port Richey, Florida. Little did she know the story was about to take a surprise twist!

On May 19, the class got an unexpected visit from a U.S. Marine — Sgt. Paul Riggs, Paula's 24-year-old son. Paul had been deployed in Japan for three years and hadn't seen his mom in almost two.

"My sister Jennifer was the mastermind behind the whole operation," Paul told TODAY. "She found out our mom had kept saying, 'Why can't I get one of those military surprises?'"

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"About two weeks ago, she called the school and set everything up. All I had to do was show up in my service alphas."

As you can see from the video, to say that Paula was happy to see her son would be an understatement. She immediately burst into tears and kept repeating the words, "My hero!" Paul had his own complex emotions about seeing his mom for the first time in years.

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"I was nervous and excited," he said, adding that he wasn't sure what to do with his hands when he saw her. "But that went away when I walked in the room."

Paul and Paula will get to spend the week together before Paul leaves for Officer Candidate School at the end of May.

Best of luck to you, Sgt. Riggs — and thanks for sharing this special moment!

This story was first published on May 26, 2016.