BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (WCCO)– At the top of 8-year-old Kaylee Arnold’s Christmas wish list was a present that couldn’t be bought or wrapped.

Her dad, Senior Chief Dustin Arnold, has been gone for months, serving our country overseas with the U.S. Navy, unsure if he would be home for Christmas.

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Earlier this week, Arnold learned he would be home for the holidays after all.

His family came up with a plan to surprise Kaylee at the Bloomington VFW’s annual Children’s Christmas Party.

After reading a letter to Santa, the second grader got to pick out a gift, not knowing the real surprise was much bigger than a board game.

In front of family and friends, her dad surprised her at the party.

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“We didn’t think he was going to make it home for Christmas at all, so this is quite a surprise. It’s a good one,” said Gary Hernandez, Arnold’s father-in-law.

This marks Arnold’s fifth deployment, but only his second with a family.

“It gets worse…knowing that she’s the age that she knows I’m not there,” said Arnold.

This Christmas will be extra special for the family of three now that they get to celebrate together.

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Senior Chief Arnold will be home for a couple of weeks before he deploys again in January.