Soldier returns home early from Afghanistan to surprise wife and young sons

(Anaheim Ducks Videos/YouTube)

When Patricia Vandenberg went to the Anaheim Ducks hockey game this week, she thought she would be getting to video chat with him on the arena's jumbo JumboTron. Instead Sgt. 1st Class Robert Vandenberg Jr. returned home early from his deployment in Afghanistan to surprise his wife and meet his newborn son for the first time.

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As Patricia tried to talk to her husband in front of the thousands of people, it appeared the video signal kept cutting out.

"Fans, we apologize," the announcer says. "We had a feeling we might have technical difficulties...so we took the liberty to fly Sgt. Vandeberg home early for the holidays!"

The crowd erupted in cheers as Vandeberg snuck up behind his wife and then gave her a huge hug and kiss.

Vandenberg told ABC News keeping the surprise under wraps was the hardest thing he's ever done.

"We're best friends and we've never kept anything from each other," he said. "I had to pretend like the Internet was going out, and that we were returning equipment and wouldn't be able to talk, and that I couldn't do FaceTime anymore."

The couple has a 17-month-old son, Robert, but their youngest, Travis, was born is September while Vandenberg was deployed. Vandeberg got to hold him for the first time at the game.

"This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will last a lifetime," Vandenberg told ABC News. "My wife said, 'This is the best Christmas gift ever. We don't have to go shopping or anything. We're together.'"


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