DEER PARK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — One Long Island middle school student got her Christmas wish on Tuesday.

U.S. Army Service member Joseph Hernandez paid a surprise visit to his younger sister, Grace, at Robert Frost Middle School in Deer Park. When the seventh-grader saw her older brother, she burst into tears and ran through the cafeteria, embracing her sibling for the first time in 10 months.

“I didn’t even know he was coming home, because everyone was telling me he might not come home,” Grace Hernandez told WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall.

Joseph Hernandez, a 2014 graduate of Deer Park High School, was deployed to South Korea in March 2015. This is the first time Hernandez has been home since deployment, as he returned back to Long Island for a two-week holiday leave.

Hernandez said it was hard to keep the visit a secret from Grace.

“Every time I’m Facetiming with my mom, she would have to tell me to be quiet because I was so excited about coming home,” Hernandez said. “I would always want to be talking about it. So we would have to try and cover it up every time I slipped up and said something.”

“It’s good to be back, very good to be back home,” he said.

At Joseph Hobart Elementary School in Shirley, kindergartner Joseph Mannara also received a special surprise visit from his brother PFC Justin Mannara, of the U.S. Marine Corps. This is the first time Mannara has been home since enlisting in January.


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