RONKONKOMA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — there were hugs and tears in a kindergarten classroom Friday after an Army soldier surprised his little boy at a Long Island elementary school.

Matthew Rivera had no idea that Christmas was about to come early.

The 5-year-old kindergartener at Cherokee Elementary School in Ronkonkoma had spent the last six months missing his military father, sleeping with a camouflage teddy bear and counting down the days until his dad would return home, CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported.

Little did he know that separation was about to end as his father, Pvt. Frank Rivera, marched his way down the halls of the school to surprise Matthew.

“My son is the biggest thing in my life, so it’s very difficult to be away from him,” said Rivera, who returned home early from Army training camp for Christmas.

Rivera is an active duty soldier stationed in Fort Sam, Texas, in order to complete one year of training to become an Army medic, Gusoff reported. He last saw Matthew in July.

Rivera said he will have two weeks with his family before having to return to duty. He said he will soon find out where he will be deployed long-term and hopes to bring his wife and son with him.

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