ROXBURY, NJ - A member of the New Jersey Army National Guard on Friday surprised his 5-year-old boys by showing up at Jefferson School while they were singing holiday music.
Guardsman James Rueter found himself covered in hugs from his 5-year-old twin sons, Bennett and Nathan, preschool students at the school in Succasunna.
Reuter was stationed in Jordan for the last eight months and 24 days and away from his family for a total of 325 days before Friday's homecoming. His boys' preschool teachers, Rebecca Hutsebaut and Suzanne Flammer, worked with the family to make the homecoming special.
Knowing Reuter was en route, Hutsebaut and Flammer worked with Jefferson School Principal Melissa Cosgrove to have all the preschool and kindergarten classes meet in the school's media center and sing holiday music. They situated Bennett and Nathan front and center, allowing their dad to come up from behind.
The boys reacted as expected: With joy and lots of hugs. Bennett was so excited he hugged all of his classmates as well.
For the past year, the boys - along with their mom, Samantha, and 16-month-old baby brother Mason - have been communicating almost daily with James over the Internet. The twins knew their dad was coming for Christmas but had no idea when that would take place.
James actually arrived home on Thursday night and snuck upstairs after the boys were asleep. Only his wife and Mason knew he was home, but Mason wasn’t saying anything.
James won't be deployed again any time soon. The New Jersey National Guard is on a 4-year cycle for deployments, so aside from a weekend a month, James will be home with his family and able see his boys grow for the rest of his term.
After the New Year, James will begin looking for work. He had to quit his job as a drug counselor at Day Top when he deployed.
Even while deployed, James always remained a member of the school community. The school sent to his unit care packages last spring.