Veterans Day may be Friday, but this was a surprise that couldn't wait.

A special assembly kicked off at 9 a.m. at Colchester Elementary School, during which a sailor surprised his two children in front of the entire school.

Senior Chief Petty Officer Leonard Viggiani of the U.S. Navy walked out to surprise his family.

Thousands of people loaded up and the WFSB Facebook page to watch.

See photos of the emotional reunion here.

Before it happened, however, students sang several patriotic songs.

All the while, Viggiani waited in the wings.

"[I'm feeling] lots of butterflies, so [I'm] really nervous," he told Eyewitness News. "[I] haven't seen them in awhile, it's going to be awesome."

Viggiani said his two boys were in the crowd, 7-year-old Miles and 10-year-old Michael.

They had not seen their father in 7 months.

"[I've] been in the navy 19 years now, and this is the first time I've been deployed having kids like this, so this was a lot harder," Viggiani said.

During the assembly, a video of Viggiani in Djibouti, Africa was shown.

"Hi boys," he said in the video.

After a brief message, he told them to turn around.

Miles spotted his dad first, followed by Michael. Both went in for a nice, long hug.

Michael, a middle school student, said he didn't think anything of it when his teacher brought him over to the elementary school. She told him they needed some help picking up books.

"I didn't even know," Michael said. "We just went up there and I'm like 'all right let's just get the books.' So we went down to get the wheel thing because the box was really heavy and then we got here, and now I'm psyched!"

Miles said he couldn't believe it.

"I thought it was like the normal plans where he wouldn't come back until Sunday or Saturday," he said.

Other veterans who were present told Eyewitness News that being there for the special moment was something to which they could all relate.

"It strikes a chord with just about everyone who's deployed," said Dan Henderson, U.S. Army.

Viggiani said he won't have to be deployed again for a few years after he goes down to Virginia to finalize his demobilization.

He said this surprise was everything he hoped it would be.

"I'm just very glad to see them again and we'll have another nice weekend with family before I have to go down to Norfolk for a bit."

Copyright 2016 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.


Digital Content Producer

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