Soldier surprises wife and daughter for Christmas - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Soldier surprises wife and daughter for Christmas

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WEST UNION (KWWL) -- This month, KWWL is giving local soldiers the chance to say "Happy Holidays" to their family and friends. Wednesday night, we helped one man take it a step further. Sergeant John Smalley's wife wasn't expecting to see her husband for at least a few more weeks. He's serving in Afghanistan, and has already been overseas for five months.

Smalley's brother-in-law tipped us off that the sergeant was coming home early. We first thought he'd land in Iowa last weekend, but his flight was pushed back till late Wednesday. Then that afternoon we found out Smalley hopped on an earlier flight -- some kind strangers made it possible for him to arrive ahead of schedule by offering up their seats on the earlier flight.

We called his wife, Meagan, and told her we wanted to shoot a holiday greeting with her, that Smalley would see overseas. It was the perfect set-up for an incredibly emotional homecoming.

After five months in the desert, weeks of planning, and six days of traveling, by 4:00 Wednesday afternoon Smalley landed in Iowa and was ready to grant his wife's number one Christmas wish.

"They don't know I'm coming, they'll be surprised hopefully," he said.

Smalley hurried to load his bags and make the final drive from Cedar Rapids to West Union. By 6:00, we were ready to play our role in the surprise. We met Meagan and her one-year-old daughter, who wakes up every morning to kiss Daddy's photo.

"It's going to be crazy because my daughter, she wasn't walking when I left, and she's walking now," Smalley told us before he left the airport.

We lined the entire family up to send their holiday message. Meanwhile, Smalley made his way into the family picture. On the count of three, the family was supposed to say "Merry Christmas." It was also Smalley's cue to surprise his wife. Needless to say, she really had no idea.

"I said, who's this guy? And then I looked closer and it was my husband," she told us later.

Smalley took a moment to greet everyone, but his eyes and his heart were each focused on the two most important ladies in his life.

"I'm glad to be home. There's a lot of people not as fortunate," he explained. "I had a buddy who got killed and I'm praying for his family this Christmas."

Even though Santa won't come for a couple more nights, the greatest gift of all had arrived in the Smalley home.

"I don't even remember my Christmas presents from the past compared to this. The best Christmas present I could possibly ask for," said Meagan.

Smalley is returning in about two weeks for his final seven months of duty. His wife is also in the Army, but is currently taking family leave to raise their daughter while he serves in Afghanistan.

Online Reporter Colleen O'Shaughnessy

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