Local boy's Christmas wish comes true when Marine dad surprises him at school

Deven Sullivan's dad was on 5-month deployment

VISTA, Calif. - A school assembly turned into a tearful reunion that started with a simple question posed to a little boy named Deven Sullivan.

"Deven, what is your holiday wish this year?" asked Gabriella Gomez, principal of Joli Ann Leichtag Elementary School in Vista.

"To have a Christmas miracle; for my dad to come home from Afghanistan," replied 7-year-old Deven.

While Gomez stopped Deven from returning to his seat in the crowd, his dad quietly walked up behind him.

"What's up buddy?" he asked matter-of-factly.

"Daddy!" exclaimed the ecstatic second-grader.

"I'm glad I made it back. I love him. I love my whole family. I miss them with all my heart," said Deven's father, Marine Staff Sgt. Walter Sullivan.

Sullivan secretly returned from a five-month deployment in Afghanistan earlier than everyone expected -- everyone, that is, except his wife, Rebecca.

"Since he's been in the military, once we had kids, he said, 'I always wanted to surprise them at school,'" said Rebecca Sullivan.

The Sullivan's toddler son, Kaden, was also happy to see his dad, at least for a minute.

"There he goes," chuckled Sullivan, as he watched his toddler rush back to his mom.

"I always collect coins whenever he goes and wherever he goes and he got me a whole new coin," Deven said of the shiny encased coin his dad had brought back for him from Afghanistan.

The emotional surprise was a Christmas treat for all.

"I'm just glad that he's home. I'm really glad that we're all together and now he can truly say he's never missed a Christmas with his kids," said Rebecca Sullivan.

"I'm really excited because it's just a dream come true," Deven said, still wiping away tears.

"I'll tell you what, family is absolutely the most important thing to me and this is why I do what I do. I love you all," Sullivan said to an audience of children and adults who burst into applause as he walked toward them holding his Deven's hand.

The Sullivans are planning to surprise the rest of the family in Orange County on Christmas Eve.

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